Obituary – Thamsanqa Sokutu: Praised for his work – and for being ‘only human’

2015-02-01 15:00

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Thamsanqa Sokutu has been hailed as a man who contributed enormously to the rise of black business in democratic South Africa.

Sokutu (51) died on Thursday night, though details were thin at the time of going to press.

Business journalist and presenter of the Money Show on 702 and Cape Talk 567 Bruce Whitfield broke the news on Twitter on Friday night: “I am told former African Bank director, ex Public Works DG Tami Sokutu died at home last night. Appears to have died in sleep.”

Newspaper readers may remember Sokutu as the man who, in the wake of African Bank’s crash, famously told the Sunday Times: “F**k the poor.”

The unsecured lender collapsed late last year and Sokutu was among those blamed for its free fall.

But his close friend, Sandile Zungu, the vice-president of the Black Business Council, said Sokutu should be remembered for his “vast positive contribution to the business community” and not just his “mistakes”.

Zungu said he’d learnt of Sokutu’s death “from natural causes” with “absolute shock”.

He planned to meet the Sokutu family last night to offer both his and the black business community’s condolences.

“We do feel the family’s pain. Their loss is also our loss,” said Zungu.

“From what I know, the family has been devastated, but I cannot speak on their behalf – I can only imagine what they are going through, having lost the head of the family.”

The two men met as students at the University of Cape Town in the mid-1980s.

“As a young man, he was an introvert, but what was striking about him was his love for his people,” Zungu said.

“This is proved by his decision to join the public service in this country’s first democratic administration.”

He said Sokutu loved his people dearly and had played a pivotal role in ensuring the black business community was both organised and professional.

“He made a positive contribution to public life. He will be remembered for all the good things he did and, of course, his mistakes – because he was only human,” he said.

Black Business Council secretary-general Xolani Qubeka said the council was saddened and shocked by Sokutu’s passing.

“While he was not a member of the council, he was one of the leading black people in business and we consulted him from time to time,” said Qubeka.

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