Dear Pearl Shongwe, the overachiever who earned her stripes

Versatile SABC news reader Pearl Shongwe was found dead inside her Waterfalls apartment.

Versatile SABC news reader Pearl Shongwe was found dead inside her Waterfalls apartment.

Published Nov 22, 2022


Sixolise Gcilishe

Dear Pearl Shongwe, I’m pretty mad at you and what angers me the most is the fact that the person I want to talk to about the pain I’m carrying is you, only you would get it.

Since the news of your passing, I have been trying to understand what that truly means but my brain consistently rejects the news. I read news outlets updating us on all the developments of your passing, your pictures everywhere accompanied by “RIP” messages.

Pictures of you all over the internet with white doves. White doves symbolise hope in tough times and they should supposedly be comforting and uplifting and yet they did no such thing.

I still have trouble truly comprehending what it means that you have passed. It can’t be.

It isn’t like I don’t understand the English language or even what death means, but somehow it just doesn’t make any sense that you have crossed over to the other side and I never will get to see you again or even talk to you again.

South Africa - Johannesburg - 16 Johannesburg 2022 - Radio personality Wilson B Nkosi speaking as friends and family members of the late SABC and Metro FM news reader Pearl Shongwe, gathered at the public broadcaster for the memorial service of the late TV personality who was found dead  at her Polofields flat a week ago.Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

I attended your memorial service at your work studios on Wednesday. I walked on the red carpet towards the venue where your memorial would be held.

Candles lit everywhere, pictures of you with your date of birth and the date of your passing were placed around the room, not that I had the strength to look at them.

They played videos of you on the big screen. You know how much I love looking at your pretty face, I just couldn’t handle seeing you that day.

Your smile which usually brings me delight and peace; your laughter which usually brings me joy and contentment; and your voice which often commands me to listen, brought me so much discomfort and thick layers of sadness.

It was weird. It was probably the first time I cried since your passing because I have been afraid to face this news, whenever I try, paralysis captures my body.

I attended both the memorial service and the funeral simply to confirm that this was actually happening. None of this feels real.

Your friend, Mirian Nyako-Lartey, was sitting right in front of me at both services and kept handing me tissues one after the other because I couldn’t stop crying.

She was full of sadness too. Seeing your mother made it worse because I can’t imagine how she must be doing if I’m struggling the way I am.

Baby, don’t you know that no parent should bury her child?

I’ve faced many challenges from surviving an entire open-heart surgery where I literally had surgeons make 8-inch incision down the centre of my chest wall.

Then cut my breastbone and opened my rib cage to reach my heart.

I recovered from that. I told you I thought I was going to die, you told me I was still going to live for many years to come.

Then there was the stroke, causing paralysis on the one side of my body and resulting to temporary disabilities but none of them begin to compare with the pain I carry as a result of your passing.

Physical pain is easy, you know exactly what to do to recover.

As long as you follow the prescribed steps you’ll recover. But this pain, what the hell am I supposed to do with this pain?

2022 is the most disgusting year I have ever had to endure because with all the loss I have suffered, I lost you too.

I wish you were here to tell me how to handle this one, like you did with different issues on many different occasions before.

This is one pain I’ll never heal from, so I pray that I find a way to live with it.

I will carry it with me always because losing you is the wound that will never go away.

I’m going to miss you fussing over me. I’m going to miss your pure heart, love, generosity, honesty, and just having you around. How you loved me loudly and publicly. Your love was magical.

I’m going to miss you whenever my heart needs nurturing, comfort and a home, because you were a home for my heart.

A place I ran to whenever there was a void and somehow I got lost or stranded in this cold, lonely and confusing world.

I’m going to miss having a person I don’t have to explain myself to because you often just got it, you just got me. I’m going to miss your calmness whenever life puts me in a position that freaks me out and knocks me off balance.

I’m going to miss the support and cheerleading role which you seem to have really loved and enjoy doing. Your messages or calls whenever you came across my work on different mediums.

I’m going to miss canvassing to you every election because regardless of our relationship, you made me campaign to you like I would to a stranger, giving solid reasons why you should vote for us.

This is because you took the state of our country and conditions in which our people live seriously. You loved people and wanted a better life for all.

I’m going to miss your hugs and kisses. You really had a way with me. So I’m really going to miss your ability to have me smiling even when it hurts.

I’m not trying to be positive right now. I’m not trying to find comfort or even grieve or mourn you. I want to remain mad as hell.

I want to hate the world and life for taking you from me and you know what, you would get it and you would tell me it’s okay to feel the way that I feel.

I sent this letter to the editor of The Star, Sifiso Mahlangu. Together we were reflecting on our school days.

How we sat in the front of our class among other over achievers. Even then you were forever so committed, elegant and really hungry for success. What we know for sure is that you, Pearl Shongwe, have earned your stripes.

I miss and love you, Baby, I thought my hundred silent prayers would bring you back but I will carry you in my spirit forever.

I value the 17 years of knowing you. From us being in class together dreaming to actually realising our dreams.

Sixolise Gcilishe is the EFF’s communications manager.

The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media.