Dr Pali Lehohla  Photo: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

The real numbers: Lonely send-off in time of coronavirus

By Dr Pali Lehohla Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - An old  friend, Sekoale Malete, passed away on Thursday. 

I served with Malete on the economic advisory committee of late North West premier Edna Molewa between 2007 and 2011. Throughout the period of knowing him, I realised Malete was seized with development. 

In 2009 I visited his school and old Malete regaled me with plans for its development and the need for a computer laboratory. I shared with his school the knowledge of my community data that would assist the children to think through the challenges of their community. 

Malete, who was a member of the regional council of Madibeng, was immersed in serious community challenges that included taxi violence and farm and grazing lands in the rapidly urbanising and encroaching Kgabalatsane. Whenever he passed by my place, we would reminisce about how guns were moved in the Struggle years and how he got ambushed and arrested. Without any bitterness and a sense of service, Malete bore a permanent knowing smile. 

We would discuss the development challenges of our country at local government level where he cut his teeth. He had a wicked sense of humour which made him appreciate the complexity of politics and the patience required in navigating its treacherous landscape. There was always time to relax. At one stage he came when my sister-in-law was also visiting. She, as she always, brought with home-brewed ginger beer and fat cakes. Malete dug his teeth into the fat cakes and the ginger beer. Many a time he called but I would be out of the country. 

We all do not know how we will depart this world, but departing in the era of coronavirus is cruel. It disrupts burial rites and reduces the number of those who want to mourn drastically. Malete was found unconscious by the police outside his car two weeks ago. He was taken to the intensive care unit, where they discovered blood clots. He was in high care, where he passed on. Death is lonely, but the send-off is even lonelier. May his spirit rest in peace. 

Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics SA


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