CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 12: ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni during the Presidential Golf Day Challenge on February 12, 2016 at the Atlantic Country Golf Club in Cape Town, South Africa. The Presidential Golf Challenge, hosted by the Jacob Zuma Education Trust, raises funds for a social responsibility initiative. (Photo by Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

NTSIKI MASHIMBYE

MY father, my comrade, my fellow golfer and my friend. I shall not for a minute mourn your passing, for I am filled with only beautiful memories of you when I selfishly hung onto your coat tails, toddling at your feet and drinking from your endless reservoir of wisdom and experience. 

Tloks, short for Motlokwa, as Mandela, Sisulu, Kathrada and others would affectionately call you, Tsamaya ka Khotso, you have more than earned your rest and your peace knowing that your comradely and selfless deeds have left our country richer and better.

When we met you, Bab’ uMlangeni, it was akin to meeting all of the Rivonia Trialists.

We would never tire of the stories, of the history lessons and of your political insight. 

We saw you as we would see the mighty Baobab tree; a source of our protection and to many, a symbol of longevity, strength and presence!

You survived, and even thrived, in the harshest of conditions and your legacy will now continue to nourish and heal generations of South Africans to come. 

I shall now dare claim that I have walked alongside a giant. 

For I walked next to you at the Constitutional Assembly to pen a Constitution for New Democratic South Africa. 

I walked with you when you delivered blankets to the old and vulnerable. 

We walked the fairways of Soweto Country Club, Augusta Country Club and Milnerton Golf Club.

We laughed, we argued over golf rules, representing both the ANC and the Republic at a time when golf was not yet fashionable to most.

A “bourgeois sport” they called it, we in return called them “Snuris”, a term you always reserved for lousy golf players and those who dishonoured the cause of freedom.

In the entire ANC Class of 94 in parliament, it was only you, Desmond Lockey and I – that shared a love for this game from the early days of a new South Africa.

You used your skill and knowledge of golf to reach out to a wide array of South Africans from different walks of life at golf gatherings throughout the Republic.

You were well-known as one of the most accessible senior leaders of the ANC and Parliament, helping to bridge the great divide between sports and politics. 

Baba Mlangeni, Tloks, the lessons you taught me in the many hours we spent in the uneven lies of the fairways and the crucible of the trenches will remain indelible in my heart and in mind.

For all the cash you have taken from me on the grounds of the Milnerton golf course, I now say to you: See you on the next tee!

May you soon tee off with Comrade Cassim Saloojee! 

I know in life, as in golf, you would have wished for a free drop without a penalty, now the Lord has granted you one. Free drop and no penalty incurred! 

Tloks, I know you will be in good company, with Mma June, Madiba, Oom Gov, Sisulu.

Your lives collectively and individually, will forever be remembered as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, even in the darkest of days.

We will all die someday, but not many can claim to have lived life so meaningfully.

After all, “few are the giants of the soul who actually feel that the human race is their family circle” [Freya Stark].

To paraphrase Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of (this giant)”.

Tloks, you raised me. You raised me. Thank you.

Famba kahle, Tatana wa Mina.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR|

Ntsiki Mashimbye is South Africa’s Ambassador to Brazil. He was formerly a Member of Parliament and chairperson of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Correctional Services, and is South Africa’s former ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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