FAMILY, friends, and colleagues gathered at the Edendale Lay Ecumenical Centre last Friday to bid farewell to the first black editor of Echo, Khaba Mkhize (70).Mkhize died last Sunday at his home in Imbali following a long illness. In attendance were seasoned journalists groomed by him, his former SABC colleagues and well-known musicians. The mood at the service was that of a celebration for a life well lived.Mkhize’s friend Sipho Masondo described him as a true friend. “We met in the early sixties at Ohlange High School and started this life-long friendship that blossomed to brotherhood until he joined the then Natal Witness. When he arrived at the Witness he raised the standard and was a breath of fresh air in Pietermaritzburg. As a journalist he was different, courageous and bold. He called a spade a spade and all of a sudden everyone looked forward to reading the Natal Witness. Through his work, he placed community issues on the agenda and became the voice of the voiceless.”Masondo said what was special about Mkhize as a journalist was his ability to tackle community issues. “When he started Echo he focused on the day-to-day issues affecting ordinary people. I remember his weekly column, Thayima mthengi uyaxhopheka. That column dealt with how consumers were conned with high food prices. These prices had an impact on the poor, particularly black people. He developed his own style of writing to suit Echo readers.”Mkhize introduced and promoted Ubuntu long before it was commercialised. “He lived Ubuntu, whenever you greeted him and said ‘sawubona’, he would respond by saying ‘Abande ubuntu’. Journalists that were groomed by him can tell you how passionate he was about Ubuntu.”One of his protégés, Laleka Kaunda, now working at the office of the presidency, said Mkhize taught them about the importance of responsible journalism. “He would always say that as journalists we had tremendous power and should always be cautious in our reporting. We worked in the time of apartheid and he warned that we had the power to arouse people to greater levels of anger and therefore we needed to be careful.”Mkhize was laid to rest at the Mountain Rise Cemetery.