By Edward Tsumele
In my time at Sowetan, we worked closely together on the entertainment desk when the late Elliot “Bra’ Makhaya was the larger than life entertainment editor at Sowetan. Makhaya is the one who brought me to Sowetan in 1998, when I was still completing a journalism programme at the then Pretoria Technikon.
I found Saint at Sowetan, but at the time he was on the news desk and it is only in later years that he joined the entertainment desk, which at the time produced a leading entertainment supplement called Time Out that came out on Friday. The entertainment supplement was actually the country’s ultimate newspaper supplement to be in If you were a musician with an album out, thanks to the team that produced it, who had developed collective skills in profiling artists in a way that connected easily with the readers of the paper and we were so trusted by South African newspaper readers to an extent that some referred to the supplement as the entertainment Bible of music lovers in the country to the extent that when a survey was commissioned to engage readers of the paper, it was found out that in fact Time out was more popular than the whole paper on Friday.
I cannot recall how Saint ended up with us on the entertainment desk of Sowetan, but what I remember is that he had issues with his senior colleagues in the newsroom as Saint being Saint, he was sometimes a bit difficult to work with I hear. But Bra E, to his credit as I understand told the news desk that they could bring him over to the entertainment desk. And when he came in he fitted so well that together we worked to produce the best entertainment supplement in the country at the time, to an extent that us the scribes were bombarded and sometimes trailed at industry functions by musicians, promoters and record label executives trying to get themselves or artists in Time Out. It was sometimes such a nightmare to go to a function and not get accosted at every opportunity even when one was sneaking to the toilet from the function by all sorts of artists wanting to be in the paper. The little we talk about how Bra E was bombarded by such requests at every opportune, at the offices, jazz concerts and festivals, the better. Those who worked with me and Saint at that time will tell you what I am talking about when I say it was madness at Time Out during the time when saint was there as well.
The issue is Saint fitted in well in the team when he joined us, and Bra E seemed to understand how to work with someone who had a chronic illness that he also had. When he needed =to be tough with him, Bra E could because he understood when saint was genuinely struggling with his chronic illness and when he was “Bullshitting” to use Bra E’s words.. Besides those minor issues mostly related to the way he handled his chronic illness, Saint was an important member of Time Out who contributed immensely to its success. He was especially a notable English writer, who chose the words he used in every sentence and every paragraph meticulously, and therefore became a reliable journalist when it came to couching young writers fresh from college who joined the entertainment desk.
Many people outside the journalism profession may not know this, but the truth is there are three types of journalists. There is a type who are reporters, not necessarily writers, but who can construct a basic news reporter that is discernable to readers. The second type are the ones who are not necessarily reporters but can report, but are excellent writers who can manipulate the English language to an extent that they can turn around a mundane story into a readable piece of journalism. Finally there are those who are both reporters and writers and this is a rare breed of journalists who create magic with the written word, and often are masters at creative writing making the English words sing on a computer screen or newsprint as they tell a story. Saint P belonged to the last according to me.
However before he joined Sowetan, he had sharpened his writing over many years writing for magazines such as True Love where some readers will remember him as Saint P Molakeng in the 1990s. It is therefore understandable why his death is touching so many people, especially in the arts and journalism circles
“Good memories of Tshokolo we live in me. He was a good friend and brother. May His Soul Rest In Peace,” said Mandla Baloyi, a former recording label executive on his Facebook page.
“Lord Have Mercy. Not another modest, humane, and gentle human being. Condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and associates. And Mamelang, thanks for caring and being there – always,” wrote former journalist and columnist Suzette Mafuna on her Facebook page.
However from here let me leave the rest of the tribute to cultural critic and former editor Sandile Memela (Pictured right with Molakeng above) who was friends with Saint P, who penned this poetic and touching tribute to Molakeng and published it on his Facebook page yesterday.
By Sandile Memela
It is pointless to ask
But why now?
I will cherish the memories
I can still hear your soft voice
You told me I wrote and spoke bullshit
I knew I was bullshiting, sometimes
and you would still engage
to talk about it why
it could not be deodorized
They say a friend is someone who knows
when you write or talk bullshit
He will tell you, with a smile, that it is bullshit
But will lend you time and patience
to listen to the bullshit
Your shy smile
even when you had too much beer
you would insist to drive yourself
into the dark Soweto night
clutching more beers
as you staggered to open the door
into your home
For some strange reason
I am glad that you did not die in the stampede
I dont know if your soul will rest in peace
you worried to death about the future of your children
I pray you find the sought after peace where you are
What i know is that your death empties me inside
This is the dead end
Now I know for sure there is no place to hide
We all must be ready
Your spirit lives, my friend
You will always be part of us