Thabo Mbeki's message of condolence

By Drum Digital
24 May 2013

My wife Zanele and I learnt with great shock about the untimely passing of your and our loved one, Vuyo Mbuli, last week.

Please accept my apology for my absence as you inter Vuyo’s last remains today. I am away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to join millions of other Africans to celebrate and reflect upon the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), an event whose profound meaning Vuyo would have faithfully conveyed to our country today.

The national outpouring of grief and solidarity that followed Vuyo’s passing serves as a testimony to the place he occupied in the hearts and minds of our people, black and white, urban and rural, young and old.

Vuyo came to inhabit this place not only because he sat everyday in close proximity to us, a wall away in our living rooms as our companion and therefore an intimate member of our families and a reliable informant about our great deeds and follies through the platform of the public broadcaster. Perhaps without ever realising it himself, Vuyo became a part of us because in him resided and reverberated the true essence of what it means to be a South African, an African, a human being.

Vuyo Mbuli was a profoundly dignified and decent human being!

As a professional, he possessed and observed high ethical standards and a measure of doubt which inspired endless inquiry because Vuyo knew that our social reality is much larger and more complex than the sound bites into which the objective and subjective factors that govern the media more generally, and the broadcasting medium specifically, often compress social reality.

Indeed, not many amongst his profession of journalism have mastered the ability to tell the story without seeking to be part of the story, which invariably means taking one side over another or others.

Vuyo also understood, as did the recently departed Chinua Achebe whom he has now joined, that as Africans, “we are older than problems.” He accordingly exuded an outgoing personality which aggregates to the eternal ideals of those who are older than problems, the millions of our people who mourn his departure.

I make these brief and general remarks about Vuyo to communicate essentially three challenges that his passing present to the profession of journalism, our public broadcaster and therefore our country.

The first of these is that professionalism in Vuyo’s vocation, journalism, is crucial for the overall health of our country. For this reason, it is in journalism’s interest that the matter remains always on its and the public agenda, avoiding generalisations, the name-calling and defensive postures that inhibit rather than facilitate debate.

The second is that more than any other component of our media, the public broadcaster exists for the sole purpose of expanding the horizons of our people, which the SABC correctly describes, in its vision statement as: “Broadcasting for total citizen empowerment.” As a pensioner and therefore an elder, I would like to challenge the young people who constitute the SABC’s workforce, seriously to examine what their daily commissions and omissions mean relative to the broadcaster’s commitment to “Broadcasting for total citizen empowerment.”

The third is that “eternity,” as Amilcar Cabral once wrote, “is not of this world.” Nonetheless, our deeds and misdeeds have a permanence of their own. Vuyo understood this, always reminding us that we are what we do and not only what we claim, when everyday he would invoke the aphorism: “Mintirho ya vulavula” – ‘Deeds speak for themselves.’

While he lived, Vuyo Mbuli’s deeds spoke for themselves.

Thus he has left permanent and discernable footprints, landmarks which will serve as a navigational beacon to those of us who remain. Personally, I hope that his colleagues and the nation as a whole will learn from his deeds as we continue to walk our path, determined that our answer to the ever present question: ‘What is to be done?’ always has within it, the total empowerment of our people, the citizens.

May his soul rest in peace.

Sharp Sharp! Heita Daar!

Mintirho ya vulavula!

Find Love!