Jon Qwelane
Jon Qwelane

Jon Qwelane was a savvy trailblazer

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 10, 2021

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Oupa Ngwenya

If truth was more dignified with clothes on, you could count on Jon Qwelane, affectionately known as JQ, to dare walk it naked hiding nothing to leave anything to the imagination.

You either loved him passionately for his craftsmanship or hated him for his painstaking knack for walking the truth naked.

The life and times of JQ presents a full menu from which to choose what to remember and what to forget.

But history’s true lessons for a full picture to obtain, permit no room to forget and impose a burden of memory to remember everything.

On Thursday January 7, 2021 sports history’s walking library, Collin Macheke, posted an colonic picture of stylish soccer administrator Cyril Kobus, imposing figure of Kaizer Motaung and great lifer Ewert Nene.

By posting this picture, Macheke was making a reminder of the birth of Kaizer Chiefs 51 years ago. January 7, 1970 was the date.

What has Kaizer Chiefs anniversary have to do with JQ?

Deep contemplation of the picture sent threads to mind knitting into a tapestry of memory, people and events. Motaung ranks as a groundbreaking towering pioneer.

Nene was the soccer preacher who made public relations a persuasive undertaking that made soccer fans turn out in their numbers for the brand-building Kaizer Chiefs FC is today.

The force behind this brand-building feat was Leslie Sehume.

This is how history watcher and cultural virtuoso writer Sam Mathe described Sehume: “Leslie Sehume, the doyen of sports writers, ground-breaking newsman, jazz scholar, boxing trainer, poet, arts promoter and recording artist, a true renaissance personality.”

All these are attributes of outstanding individuals claiming their space in the galaxy of stars deserving of being looked up to.

It was this Chiefs brand-building craftsman Sehume that recruited the hard-to-ignore JQ to establish his footing in the journalism world to grow and leap into the sky as a star, in the field, in his own right.

By his act Sehume had put James Heller’s dictum to demonstrable action: “A candle loses nothing by lighting another.”

Sehume gained more than lost to see the journalism beam glow brighter.

Sehume’s multiple feats were met with Vodacom journalism Lifetime Award in 2015.

Chiefs’ illustrious 51 year history speaks for itself.

The irrepressible star that Qwelane became would probably not have graced journalistic skies had Sehume not reached out and touched the hand of such a savvy trailblazer who loved with such passion and hated with unrestrained intensity.

The magic of invention behind Chiefs, to which Sehume was a livewire, and the passion of craftsmanship that saw JQ stamp his daredevil presence in the newsroom could have drawn its fighting roots from the 1950s’ years of defiance during which he was born on September 10, 1952.

The September month, in which the face of the universe heart-warmingly nods south, to usher spring to the southern hemisphere, must have known about the word warrior JQ at conception.

This was a wordsmith of a kind with an uncanny effect of making good causes come alive.

The 1950s era in South Africa commands pride of place in the defiance campaigns in the calendar of the oppressed community’s struggle whose exasperation had exhausted human endurance.

If the month of September sees all of God’s creation come alive, why would anyone expect that JQ’s life would not be as invigorating?

The fault, politically correct fellow citizens, was not in Qwelane that South Africa was gifted with a life that was not ready material for conformity.

To have summarily dismissed his perspective, to things, as hateful was to fail to reckon with the unrelenting power of his challenging approach leaving no ground to the untouchables.

Qwelane had no holy cows to spare.

Figuratively speaking, he spilled blood fully aware that those apportioning for themselves exclusive right to freedom of expression, while denying others the same, would lift daggers to inflict name-calling hurt for failure to rise to the occasion of his questioning character.

Behind this character was the battle scarred word warrior, living with a bullet lodged in one leg and a soul hanging for dear life onto a security police battered body partially that left JQ without hearing in one ear.

JQ’s eventful life breathed work ethic, duty to journalistic codes being an undying news hound that answered to no party gracing one newsroom after another.

Newsrooms included The World, Rand Daily Mail, Tribute Magazine, Radio 702, Sunday Star, The Star, YFM, Islam International Satellite Radio and Sunday Sun.

Despite all this, those still unmoved by his passing, should be forgiven for forgetting. How can the door of memory be shut to such a brave heart, that gave all that journalism had to offer, behind an unyielding ribcage of principle?

JQ was a journalist of a kind. He was not the desk-bound type. Knowledgeable, steeped in his subject, to manipulate, JQ was on top of his game. Mindful of the career limiting implications of being his own person, he was familiar with the moral hazards of taking a public position.

He stuck to his guns even as the truth by which he stood would see him the last man standing.

If, in loneliness, the meaning of happiness and sadness in journalism escapes, look at Qwelane and Ranjeni Munusamy.

One chased to the end of the mountains for a view.

The other enjoying infinite pardon for unceasing indiscretions to acclaimed appointment at National Treasury as community outreach officer.

No bark from reputed watchdogs nor whimper from freedom of expression enthusiasts.

The media gods must have gone crazy to keep tilting scales of judgment to convict the hated objectors and acquit beloved celebrated serial offenders.

Qwelane’s soul departed clutching on a position erroneously attributed to Voltaire: ’You may differ with me but will defend to death your right to say it.“

JQ remains the irrepressible star whose say glitter is either light for knowledge to shine to some or inconvenient truth to walking naked to others.

* Oupa Ngwenya is a writer and corporate strategist.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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