The late Sam Ditshego was Kagiso’s walking library
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Johannesburg - A library has burnt down in Kagiso, west of Joburg.
Do not look for a brick-and-mortar structure that could have suffered an act of arson after the ubiquitous service delivery protests.
Africans just have a way with words, even for something as morbid as death.
The library that was razed is a phrase that was used at the memorial service to mark the passing of a man of letters and PAC stalwart Sam Ditshego, which was held at the Chief Mogale Hall on Thursday.
Ditshego, who passed away last Saturday, at the age of 64, was buried at the local Kagiso Cemetery on Saturday at a funeral service befitting a man of his standing.
A military veteran, Ditshego took ill last Wednesday, having tested positive for Covid-19 and was taken to 1 Military Hospital, where he was discharged reportedly not at risk.
He died three days later.
At the memorial service, it emerged just how vast a library Ditshego was.
He was well read and meticulous in his research.
A local civic leader Sipho Ngwetsheni, made the point that the Kagiso Library should be renamed after Ditshego, a man whose book collection was described as impressive by his son, Tshepo.
He was an A-student who went on to study in Botswana, Nigeria and Canada after skipping the country into exile in 1976.
While in Botswana, where he met his wife Elsie, he worked as a teacher at Itireleng Primary School.
For a while, husband and wife moved to Nigeria to further their studies before returning to Botswana.
They soon moved to Canada where Ditshego published a magazine for the PAC, Izwe Lethu.
He was also a representative of the PAC in west Canada.
But everyone seems to remember the exile feeding articles to newspapers in the country, especially the paper that eventually became the Sowetan.
He wrote articles for the Louis Farrakhan Foundation, with the same prolific fervour as had come to be his trademark. The family returned to the country from exile in 1995.
Ditshego never stopped imparting his knowledge through writing and broadcast interviews. He was a regular caller to radio talk shows, especially 702. A proud Motswana, he contributed to the print and broadcast media in his adopted country Botswana, where his relatives still reside.
Among the video valedictions played at the memorial service were from family in Botswana, who commended him for being the glue that held the family together.
Gauteng chairperson of the PAC Tsietsi Molebatsi gave a moving tribute on Thursday, a speech that best captured the intellectual pedigree of Ditshego.
He credited Ditshego with understanding fully the mission of the PAC to return the continent of Africa to its rightful inhabitants.
PAC secretary-general Apa Pooe also spoke at the memorial.
Lebohang Pheko, the daughter of former PAC leader Dr Motsoko Pheko, was pencilled in to speak at the memorial but did not make it. Former Robben Island inmate Mike Matsobane said in a recorded video interview: “There was a time when we wanted to tone him down.
“Some of the things he believed in made people uncomfortable.”
That truly was Ditshego, who was a hard-hitting and uncompromising pan-Africanist. He eschewed group think and did not need to belong to a mob to validate his opinions.
One of the speakers said Ditshego made young and old interlocutors comfortable in his presence.
This is evinced by the many young people he mentored into critical thought and the politics of the PAC.
Responding to a Facebook post, former PAC member Thami ka Plaatjie, author of a book on party founding president Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, wrote: “Bra Sam lifted heavy arguments, and punched in the heavyweight division of ideas.
“A consummate thinker and an unrepentant pan-Africanist.
“In fact, he was an avowed pan-Africanist as the Pope is Catholic. A daring disciple of Sobukwe has made a safe passage to the ethereal stage.”
He then dedicated a pan-Africanist dirge to Ditshego.
Gaby Thono Magomola, another ex-Robben Island inmate for his PAC activism, had written: “I am saddened to learn of Sam Ditshego’s passing.
“We will miss that sharp incisive mind and his prolific writing. Sam never missed an opportunity to express his views without fear or favour. Africa is poorer without this fearless champion of our rightful claim to this great continent.
“Go well, son of Africa, you will be well sorely missed.”
Former editor of The Citizen, Martin Williams said: “So sorry to hear about Sam Ditshego.
“He made valuable contributions to letters and oped pages.”
Gender activist Mbuyiselo Botha said: “Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. What a loss.”
He was a doting father whose two sons Tshepo and Tebogo speak proudly of.