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MOST lunchtimes I used to amble across the road to the mammoth Joburg public library.
I would come back to the office with borrowed books from such diverse and disparate authors as Mark Twain, James Baldwin, Tolstoy, Langston Hughes, Chekhov, Dostoevsky and other august writers.
I was working in the main newsroom of The Star, and he, an arts critic in The Star’s entertainment supplement, The Star Tonight. One day he walked over and dropped a book on my desk: “I see you are interested in books. You may like this one.”
The book was The Grapes of Wrath. To say I “liked” the book is an understatement. John Steinbeck’s 1939 realist novel, set during the Great Depression and which won the Pulitzer Prize and the American National Book Award, occupies pride of place in my modest collection.
The man was Meshack Mabogoane, “Bra Mesh” or “Bogie” to those close to him. Bra Mesh passed away last Thursday from complications after suffering a stroke. He was 64.
Bra Mesh was a journalist, editor and poet, among others. He wrote for a variety of publications including The Star, Sowetan, City Press and the Mail & Guardian. His last regular columns appeared on the pages of Business Day.
Meshack Ramphelane Mabogoane was born on December 17 1947 in Payneville, Springs, to working-class parents. Like its ill-fated neighbours, Payneville was razed in terms of apartheid ideology.
Bra Mesh went to the Wilberforce Institute, founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Evaton in 1961 for junior secondary education. After his expulsion from Wilberforce, he was, in 1962, among the first student intake at Waterford School Kamhlaba in Swaziland.
Bra Mesh also studied at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1968 for a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating in 1972. He taught at several Catholic mission schools in Kenya in the 1960s.
When the June 1976 uprising exploded in Soweto, he returned to SA, joining the Financial Mail. After publishing and editing an independent, albeit shortlived magazine called African Impact, he joined The Star Tonight as an arts and culture columnist.
He freelanced for or contributed articles to Sunday World, Mail & Guardian, Sowetan and City Press; published poetry in Staffrider and Rootz magazines; and was elected secretary-general of the Forum of Black Journalists in 2001.
He was a board member of the Cultural Reclamation Forum. In the late 1990s he served at the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the Ministry of Education, and founded newsletters in both institutions.
Mabogoane was twice married, and twice divorced. He is survived by his son Tumi and three sisters.
The funeral service is scheduled to take place at 9am tomorrow at the Ngakane Community Centre in KwaThema, and the procession will leave for the cemetery at 11am.