A VISIONARY CULTURAL LEADER

I find it necessary to add to the cacophony of voices that sing praises to celebrate Gatsheni’s birthday as he turn 66 years today

I cannot forget to remember how his presence as a young journalist at The World newspaper was an inspiration to me as a young high school lad in Diepkloof

He was inspiration that helped shape my dream. How can I not remember his insightful interviews and news stories with the likes of SSRC leader Tsietsi Mashinini that captured the headlines of the heady days of the 1976 struggle

I remember walking long stretches to listen to him recite his poetry in a booming voice as part of the Medupe poets ensemble with the likes of Steve Lebelo, Maishe Maponya at the Donaldson Hall in Orlando East

He and fellow poets planted the seed to love the power of the Word I remember grappling with the agony and pain of his disappearance when he chose to go to exile after he, too, was was on the list of the Security Branch’s Most Wanted in 1976 / 77He left a big void in politically conscious and committed journalism Within a decade in America in the 1980s, he soon rose to be a strong cultural voice in Harlem where he imported and popularized Zulu culture and presence to cement relations with African-American fellow travellers on the cultural front

Together with legendary icons like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, they were the cultural voice of the anti-apartheid voice What I remember most was his return back into the country in the 1990s / 91Throughout the last three decades, Gatsheni has been an example of a black man that is focused, disciplined and hungry for success and, above all, black excellence He launched one of the very first PR and Event Management companies, Word of Mouth that created a socio-cultural stir to awaken black potential and power My growing association saw him introduce me to African-American luminaries like Iyanla Vanzant and Terry MacMillan, among others

On this his birthday I wish to remind him of a little confrontation where he condemned what he described as ‘my self destructive tendency’ to ‘live fast, drink hard and die young.

‘For some reason, his words stayed with me.

In fact, Gatsheni changed my life. The idea was to die young because of the hopelessnes of black life in Mzansi.

Few can confront this absurdity and remain sane.Worse, journalism is a killer. It breeds self-destruction and despair. I remember his leadership and guidence to establish and launch the Forum for Black Journalists. It was a culmination of his efforts to galvanize black journalists to pursue a common agenda.

Renowned playwright Mbongeni was under attack by reactionary white journalists and media hellbent on wrecking his career and undermine the newly elected black government efforts to fight AIDS.

Black journalists were helter skelter with no clear agenda. Gatsheni brought us together at his house in Kensington to take stock and begin to envisage a new role and future for ourselves.

The Gatsheni I have come to know is full of the milk of kindness. He is self- effacing power that makes things happen.

He is a lovely and caring person. Also he is supportive of black literary efforts.

I am sincerely thankful that he came back home to permanently settle here from America. We are glad you are here, Gatsheni. In your light we see Light and Love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top