Opinion

Farewell My Beloved Friend, Sister & Comrade

By Pinky Khoabane

I woke up to devastating news today, my dear sister, friend and comrade Zindzi – that you had departed to join Mama Winnie and our ancestors. I am gutted. I am terribly sad. The one person I would have been able to phone, the one person who would have consoled me is no more. 

I remember how you consoled me after the death of my sister – she was found frozen to death in a ditch on the side of the road. The thought of her feeling the ice gnawing at her body until her last breath haunted me. You would always tell me she must have been unconscious at the time of death as she must have hit her head on the ground. You made me feel better. 

Her death was just as sudden and difficult to accept as yours. 

I remember you giving my son Thembisile his Brazilian football name – ThembiNho, then you said we could even shorten it and make it T-Nho.

I will never forget your generous spirit. You gave so much of yourself to the struggle for liberation and to everyone whose life you touched, directly and indirectly. 

You have lived a life of harassment not only from apartheid operatives – from a very young age – but you continued to be a victim of the most vicious attacks from people who found your power to be a threat to the continued inequality and injustices in our country. Your strength and courage throughout has been inspiring.

I will miss the painful stories you told of some of the horrendous events that happened to you as a child, told with such calm as a reminder that it is not yet uhuru. A reminder of your determination to work for change and justice for the people of this land. 

I will miss your scathing responses on Twitter as you dealt with those who sought to tarnish your mother’s name. In the past year, you were not only attacked by Whites but also by Blacks who felt threatened by your call for expropriation of land without compensation and your continued outspokenness on the corruption and brazen looting going on in our country.  

I’ve shed much tears today but I am smiling thinking of some of your responses to those who sought to reprimand you for “betraying” your father as if they knew him better than you. “You only saw him on visits, he is my father, I lived with him” you would say. 

The revolutionary Tweets calling for the return of our land caused such an outcry that there was a call for you to be fired. You were never shy to call a spade what it is and boy, did you opt for strong language that day. You stood firm as you have throughout your life. 

My response to your Tweets, calling for progressive forces to mobilise a campaign if you were to be fired, got me in hot water where I lived. A neighbour confronted me for “knowing that woman”. Another wanted to know if I thought they were land thieves. My blog was hacked, so too my computer. “Lil Sis, you will not be silenced, asibasabe” you said. That was you – always there. 

When a man came to my door threatening to “sort you out for writing shit about whites” you would give me the strength to return to my computer and write. “Lil Sis, don’t let them scare you”. 

I will miss your funny side too. Your response to those who endlessly asked you for money: “I’m not an Oppenheimer, my father was in prison for 27 years”. 

The past two years following the loss of Mama have been extremely difficult for many of us but mostly for you, made more so by the fact that you were expected to be strong – always. We often spoke of the burden on one’s shoulders at being seen as strong even when you didn’t have the strength. 

This is a woman with whom you’d shared so many painful and beautiful memories. You loved her so much, and she was gone. We’d spoken often of the pain of losing a mother and the difficulty of dealing with it. I would try and console you by saying the pain will ease with time and you’d always say: “The pain doesn’t ease, we just get used to it”. 

You leave at a time when you were at your most dangerous – calling for Black reconciliation, the return of our land and the return to the greatness from which we have come. You are Ma’at personified – “that which is straight” a symbol of order and justice. 

I have our conversations to which I will return often. I will laugh and cry and yes, with time I will come to get used to the pain. 

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