Tribute to Sechaba ka’Nkosi and his final chapter
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The passing of Sechaba ka’Nkosi of Business Report earlier this month was not an ordinary departure from this world. The search for him described the type of person he was.
On Sunday the 12th at 12.25 pm I got a call from Philippa Larkin, a colleague of Sechaba, asking if I had spoken to him recently. Sechaba edited my columns for Sunday Business Report and we were in contact a lot.
I wondered why Philippa was calling me as the deadline for my Sunday submission had already been met earlier in the week, and the print edition was out already.
Philippa’s voice was worried and subdued as she relayed that Sechaba has not been seen since the previous day, and was not answering her calls “This is unlike Sechaba,” she said. My mind went into overdrive given the riots that engulfed the country at that point in time.
I told Philippa that I had spoken to him on Saturday for about three minutes from 3.49pm to ask for the preview of the article. Sechaba assured me that the article was fine.
Every Thursday by 9am I would get a message from him, saying, “I thought I should remind you our deadline is 10am, Morena ”. I would then respond, “Ntate, the column will be on its way”.
Many a time in conversation with Sechaba, we would talk about his mother, who recently passed away. She came from Lesotho and Sechaba would reminisce about his visits to the mountain Kingdom.
We would jump to talking about Zimbabwe where Sechaba studied at the University of Zimbabwe in the 1980s. The topic would then drift to the political economy, and the mess that South Africa is in currently and what needed to be done.
Although Sechaba and Phliippa both edited my columns for Business Report in the later years, my editorial journey with the newspaper began in 2002 after I had mulled over how one should interact with society.
Two weeks into September 2002, I approached then BR editor, Alide Dasnois, and discussed the possibility of a column in the Business Report. She asked how often and suggested once a month.
I retorted, “who will remember anything about such an infrequent communication? I will run a weekly column.”
On September 28, 2002, the maiden column was launched with the title “The man who really counts”, and 19 years on with the certainty of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, so has the column.
Since that inaugural column, I have written hundreds of columns carried in the paper and online.
Two months ago I had had a long discussion with Sechaba focused on a book with a compilation of my columns - thanks to the Professorship from University of Johannesburg.
Sechaba jumped at this opportunity and said, “I am volunteering to be by your side on this project”, and then we discussed how it would roll out.
The book project had inspired Sechaba so much that I reminded myself to assemble my fellow African statisticians across the continent and yonder, to discuss the question: “Why with all the best possibilities in front of us as Africa and Africans, is the African political leadership paying such scant attention to evidence and what should we do about it?”
Like a busy bee, I have been writing article after article every week on the events at hand as they unfold. Time has arrived for me to start the task that Sechaba was seized with. It is the best I can do for the partnership I continue to enjoy with Business Report. I owe the country a series of volumes for the rare privilege I had to serve and to honour Sechaba’s desire to inform society.
Sechaba sadly is no more and I possibly was one of the last people to talk to him shortly before he died. Philippa called me on Wednesday to say that Sechaba had had been found, but had departed this world peacefully at home in front of his TV, probably watching sport. And not due to anything to do with the civil unrest.
For reasons not revealed forever, we never discussed soccer. That is a great regret. Only at his memorial service did I realise that our relationship would have been doomed had we ventured in that direction. The annihilation of Chiefs by Sundowns could have impacted negatively on our intellectual relationship. May His Soul Rest In Peace.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the Former Statistician-General and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him on www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE