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All of us, regardless of talent, require somebody to help us realise our dreams. In my case, there are two people who made my dream of becoming a journalist a reality: Mathatha Tsedu and Charles Mogale.
So, as you can imagine, I was devastated when I heard that Charles has finally passed on, after being in a coma in hospital for a while. He had been badly hurt in a car accident after having suffered a stroke.
He offered me my first permanent job as a reporter for City Press, a little more than 20 years ago. I had no formal training in journalism. The only guide to writing a story was given to me by Tsedu, who introduced me to the Sapa, Sowetan and City Press news editors. I started writing for these organisations on a freelance basis.
Mogale noticed my writing and called me to offer me a job. I was too excited to even ask how much I would earn. It was as if he knew that I was more interested in the job than my salary.
In the formal chat to discuss the details of the job, Mogale said to me: “I know that you don’t care about how much you will earn. You are more excited by the fact that you would be telling people in your village that ‘I was with Clarence Makwetu [then president of the PAC] and that I shook the hand of Pandelani Nefolovhodwe [Azapo leader]’.” I just laughed.
The Mogale I know was a very funny man. But he was more than that. He was a good human being who treated everybody with respect. He was a loving husband. He was a great father to Kgosi and Tumi. He often spoke about his children.
He was also politically conscious and had a radical mind. I remember him saying that he adored Nelson Mandela.
“I used to tell people that you have read the brilliant writings of Steve Biko. You have heard the eloquence of Martin Luther King Jr. You have heard the fiery speeches of Malcolm X. But wait until Mandela is free. You will be blown away!
“Then Mandela was released. The old man said: ‘Comrades, friends and fellow South Africans: I greet you in the name of peace, democracy and justice for all…’
“I realised that this man was harmless and should not have been arrested,” said Mogale. He argued that people were celebrating the release of Mandela as if it were a victory.
“This man was arrested because the boers did not want to talk to him. Now that they are prepared to talk to him, they release him and we celebrate. Why?”
He then assigned me to interview at least three Rivonia Trial accused. His point was that these old men were arrested for nothing. I was able to secure interviews with Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni. Motsoaledi did not buy the argument that they were arrested for nothing and argued that their arrest was part of the bitter struggle where others went into exile.
Mlangeni fell for Mogale’s logic. He said the arrests could have been avoided if the government had had the vision to engage the liberation movement and resolve the dispute through negotiations.
Mogale was indeed an unpaid comedian. I remember he once called me while I was at home in Makwarela, Thohoyandou, and asked: “What is the time there?” I was baffled. He then explained: “Are you guys on the same time zone as South Africa?”
He once asked Pearl Rantsekeng, who was a young reporter, to buy him chips. As Rantsekeng appeared reluctant, Mogale quickly, in jest, said: “Pearl, do not forget that if it were not for me, you would be working for an escort agency.”
He was extremely jolly. He enjoyed his drink and defended it. His definition of sin was “everything that is nice”.
“If you have a nice drink [alcohol], then it is sin. If you have sex, it is sin. In fact, anything that is nice is sin. In any event, who wants to live until he is 100 years old when he did not enjoy life? I’d rather have fun and die young than live a miserable and boring life like you.
“By the way, even if I were to die and go to hell, hell would be more fun. All the stars such as Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Brenda will be in hell. Hell should be more fun,” he said in his endless jokes.
Mogale was a brilliant writer. As news editor, he was very calm and would never panic. In fact, there were times when he worked on the nerves of Len Kalane, who was assistant editor for news at City Press.
Mogale was born on January 2, 1956 in Evaton. He started his journalism career on the Rand Daily Mail in 1977. He previously worked as assistant editor of City Press and night editor of Sowetan, before he became editor of Drum and then Sunday World.
Rest in peace, Mavula, Charlie Bafana.
He will be buried in the Vaal tomorrow. The funeral service will start at 8am at the Church of Ascension (Anglican) in Sebokeng. The cortege will then proceed to the cemetery in Jacobskop, Vereeniging.
l Khathu Mamaila is the general manager of The Star