'He was a selfless human being' - Family and friends pay tribute to actor Patrick Shai

Family, friends and fans remembered actor Patrick Shai.
Family, friends and fans remembered actor Patrick Shai.
Frennie Shivambu

When they spoke of him, they talked of a humble mentor, a nurturer, a big brother on set and a man who loved his craft.

Dozens of mourners packed the Market Theatre to begin saying goodbye to legendary actor Patrick Molefe Shai.

The memorial service was attended by family, celebrities, ministers, fans and friends, who all had good things to say about the actor.

The family was chauffeured in by a fleet of Mercedes cars into the Newton venue, where they listened to speaker after speaker talking about Patrick’s life.

The actor, who died on Saturday 22 January, grew up in Sophiatown and then moved to Meadowlands where he honed his career in the entertainment industry. He started as a dancer and later moved to acting. His first acting performance was in 1986 at the Market Theatre, when he was a lead actor on the play Sophiatown, directed by Malcolm Purkey.

MC’d by Sihle Sibisi and Penny Lebyane, the service opened with a hymn, the national anthem, and a prayer from Pastor Nyathi.

Solly Shai, Patrick’s youngest brother, started with a poem from the Shai family..

The late prolific performer was the firstborn child in his family.

“It’s not because of his intelligence and wisdom but it is because of God’s wisdom, God’s grace that he became a prominent figure. He is a boy from Sophiatown and Meadowlands, who comes from a poor family but he had a vision.”

Read more | Hlomla Dandala on Patrick Shai’s death - ‘Cancel culture killed him’

Solly says Patrick was fortunate to marry Masechaba Shai, who he refers to as his sister.

“We appreciate the love you gave to Molefe, you know how stubborn he was but you were always there to support him. You made him a good man, you were always behind him giving him life and support even at his lowest,” Solly says. 

Childhood friend Bab’ Kunene reflected on the time when they first moved to Mmesi Park in 1990, where Patrick got the nickname Springbok patrol.

“When we first moved to Mmesi Park, there were boys who used to be troublesome and do house breaking. He would run after a thug and catch them no matter the speed he always made sure that he comes back with that tsotsi, that is how he got the name Springbok patrol,” Kunene says.

They also spoke of his dedication to the foundation, Khuluma Ndoda, which he started to build a platform for men to talk about their emotions. This after his own struggles with gender based voilence.

The foundation’s spokesperson Thami says they will continue to do his work.

“His action will continue to live on and we will keep his legacy alive because the issues of GBV are deep and we don’t realise how soon it can hit home. The gap is so narrow that you might want to exclude yourself not knowing how close you are to the perpetrators because they might be your son, friend, and family member. We are a sick nation, we need healing,” Thami says.

Actress Nambitha Mpumlwana says Patrick encouraged her to stand up for herself because he was not afraid to be a target so that they could rise.

“He did not seek the spotlight, it followed him. He was my brother, he had this tendency of taking you with when there were opportunities, he was a selfless human being.”

Read more | Actor Patrick Shai has died

Bonga Percy Vilakazi, the writer of 1Magic’s The River, says it was a blessing to work with Patrick because he always delivered.

“We loved the idea of having two Nkushengs on set, Seputla and Patrick complimented each other on The River. Patrick is one of those actors who understand what is needed from him as an actor and even though he would say words that were on the script, the performance will reflect exactly what was written.”

Director and actor James Ngcobo says it was a beautiful for him as a young black man to be in the presence of Patrick.

“We learn from the great actors like Patrick Shai, Pat was so humble he couldn’t even take a compliment. I remember when I came in to replace Shai on Yizo Yizo2,  I was so humbled by his generosity because he learned on the day that I was replacing him but still guided me, I learned a lot from him.”

Patrick will be laid to rest on Saturday, the funeral service will be held at Soweto Theatre. He survived by his wife and four children.

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