Michael Mulalo Mandiwana, an accountant at the Department of International Relations and Cooperatuon, died after having Covid-19-related complications at Montana Hospital in Pretoria. His son, Ofhani Shaun Mandiwana, writes this tribute to him.
I am writing this because one of the things my dad always wished was that his name would not disappear into the wind after his death. For a man with little to no digital footprint, I'm writing this with the hope that it will be shared so that his name is not lost in time.
My dad left so much with us that he deserves a book titled Lessons of Life (ending your circle of poverty) which hopefully I will make time to write. The one thing he championed more than anything was the importance of education and he couldn't have been more correct.
My dad was not just my dad. He was my favourite superhero.
His early upbringing was filled with turmoil. He came from a large family where my grandmother was the youngest wife to an already large household, so there wasn't much to go around and unfortunately, unlike me, his father died before he could finish his schooling. This meant that his future was at the mercy of his stepbrothers.
I often recall my dad telling me about the time he sat near a rock at home and cried because he begged his older stepbrother to help send him to university because he had inherited most of the cows and assets my grandfather left behind.
My dad had passed matric that year and paid his school fees by selling vegetables from the garden. But he didn't have enough for tertiary school. The current pass rate in Venda is horrendous to this day but the fact that he passed and was the first in the family to do so highlighted the potential that he had which needed to be nurtured.
Though deeply saddened, he found solace through a vision/dream of his father telling him that the inheritance he left him was a sound mind and an understanding of the true value of education. With this in his heart, my dad found a job and made sure to make education a cornerstone for a better future not just for his children, but those in his extended family, despite not receiving much help from them before.
Even though there were little resources to go around at that time, my dad always made it a point to champion the importance of education by taking those who couldn't afford tuition and paying for their education, food and accommodation if they needed it.
He was the breadwinner in our nuclear family of six, earning less than R500 a month at that time. From my cousins to even the children of the employees he ended up having in his small business, my dad helped where he could. My dad was a man who, against all odds, coming from an unknown village called Mapate, became a senior state accountant whereby he become a diplomat under what was then known as the Department of Foreign Affairs and is now known as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
With his life he truly lifted others as he rose and empowered others to be the best version of themselves, helping them, like he did for himself, to define his own reality. My father left behind children who are now working in a place where unemployment rates were devastating - one as a product manager for a start-up in Cape Town that helps blue collar workers retire more comfortably, another who is a diplomat, one who works in the science field , a student who is currently completing her matric and a 5-year-old boy who still calls for him and wants to be like him.
The thing that hurts is not that he is gone but that he left having so much more to offer this world, and not because of anything but the lack of a platform to share his wisdom and love for education. His vision for the future will live through his children who he taught to be united and loving, not just of each other but of all those around them.
My best friend
To my favourite superhero, best friend and dad, may your soul rest in peace and your name never disappear into the wind as you will forever live in our hearts and the work you have done will improve the lives of others beyond your days on this earth.
A true gentleman of note, a father, a husband, a son and a best friend and confidant to many, you will never be forgotten, and your wisdom will change the world through your children and your children's children.
To my favourite superhero, we love you daddy, forever and always.
- Ofhani Shaun Mandiwana is the son of Michael Mulalo Mandiwana.