Vuyo Mbuli: A patriot through and through

2013-05-26 14:00

A speaker at Vuyo Mbuli’s memorial on Wednesday told the packed Renaissance Centre at the SABC that three moments had united South Africans in a special way over the short 19 years of our democracy.

First it was the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995, then we hosted the Fifa World Cup in 2010, and now the sudden passing of Morning Live co-host Mbuli.

While it might sound hyperbolic, there is some truth to it.

The nation has been united in grief, shock and disbelief over the passing of the man who became a breakfast feature in our living rooms.

Since Saturday night, we have gathered around social media to witness and express the spontaneous and uninhibited outpouring of emotions over the sudden passing of the charismatic Mbuli, who had been the granddaddy of breakfast shows since 1999.

Mbuli was born on May 14 1967 in Soweto. He passed away suddenly at a Bloemfontein hospital from a pulmonary embolism on Saturday.

He collapsed while watching a rugby match at Free State Stadium.

A qualified teacher, he has been described as a consummate professional, a savvy businessman, a generous friend, and a loving husband and father.

But we knew that all along.

Mbuli was a book you could read closed, his pleasant demeanour and gentlemanly conduct whether on screen or off was not an act.

He was polite and always ready to shower praise where it was due.

It’s unsurprising that Mbuli’s childhood friends remember him by his nickname “Chalmers”.

Like the legendary Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he could charm off the pants of even the most hardened teacher.

He loved to be called Michael Jackson because of the big perm he rocked and the trendy wardrobe he had.

In today’s terms, he would have been known as the “cheese boy” of Pimville.

Tales of how he took to the Queen’s language long before his peers have been told.

Mbuli was a promising soccer player whose ball distributing skills put him above par.

He got as far as playing for the Orlando Pirates junior team.

That he was a people’s person was evident.

Testimony to it is how South Africans from all walks of life – from soccer fans decked out in full paraphernalia and ANC Women’s League members in their party colours to professionals – competed for seats in the small venue of his memorial.

In recent years, he took to running by joining a club in Soweto and became the poster man of active living, running the Comrades and smaller marathons in between.

His running club was scheduled to run a memorial race in his honour yesterday.

It would seem that he was this close to receiving the freedom of Port Alfred as one of their most famous homeowners.

The mayor has committed to naming a street there in his honour.

The Gauteng provincial government elevated his funeral to an official event.

In retrospect, Mbuli displayed patriotic gestures (he wore the SA flag pin on his lapel more than you’ve seen on many ministers).

He was a polyglot who spoke English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Sepedi, XiTsonga and TshiVenda.

Mbuli’s fluent Afrikaans and Setswana were a result of the days he spent with relatives in Kimberley, and he always reminded his viewers that his mother was from ­­De Aar.

He was a committed member of the St Aidan Anglican Church in Yeoville.

Mbuli loved choral music. The cast and crew of Morning Live remember how much he sang the Sotho hymn He Ba Nyorilweng (Ye Who Thirst) religiously on set.

When the going got tough while running the Comrades, he turned to another Sesotho hymn, Morena o Tseba Mathata a Rona (The Lord Knows Our Troubles).

His sense of humour has been described as “humongous” and his conversational style of broadcasting endeared him to many fans. He epitomised “mintirho ya vula vula” (your acts/conduct speak volumes), his favourite saying.

Mbuli was blessed with three children Siphosethu (late) and Sithenkosi (13) in his marriage to his estranged wife Savita.

When the family eulogised him, his sister Thandeka said he never shied away from telling it like it is.

She remembered him as a larger-than-life hero.

In the words of his longtime colleague Leanne Manas, Mbuli embraced and embodied everything that was South Africa.

Lala ngoxolo Rhadebe. O bosso wena.

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