Thamsanqa Mkwanazi
3 minute read
21 Mar 2017
11:09 am

‘S’dumo’, rest in truth

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi

Joe Mafela was outstanding in a number of artistic disciplines, but was he really a singer?

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi.

In an effort to stay relevant, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg keeps adding features to the various social media platforms he keeps acquiring. WhatsApp started as just an instant messaging application, but these days you can video call and do a host of other add-ons. Instagram is adding more Snapchat features to make it more fun.

Facebook – a social networking tool that was mainly controlled by the user – has become more and more automated. We would decide when we would post photos of our grandmothers trying on anti-ageing cream and when to tell the whole world how much we really love our six-month anniversary gifts. Now the app prompts you into everything, one of which is when you have memories – which can be reposted by the press of a button.

As I am the worst social media user on the planet, I logged on to Facebook, and I saw that the app now even comes up with prompts such as: “What would your friends say about you if you were dead?” Obviously, an algorithm of some sort is used to filter through your “friends’” comments, and this is used to draw up possible responses. These range from “Gone too soon”, to “I miss you” and to the slightly inappropriate “Where is my money?” and “What were you doing with my man at the chisa nyama?”

On Sunday, we woke to the news of the passing of Baba Joe Mafela, comedian extraordinaire, talented actor and an activist of the arts. South Africans across the spectrum, including the likes of Mama Lillian Dube and Isaac Shai all came out and praised the icon. I found myself agreeing with almost all of the roles they attributed to him. Almost all.

Can we really call the man a “talented singer?” Every time I heard people wax lyrical about the man’s singing capabilities, it was as if their inner algorithms had malfunctioned. Joe Mafela was outstanding in a number of artistic disciplines, but was he really a singer?

By the most basic basic definition, yes, he was. That is saying last year’s South African Idols Wooden Mic winner is an award-winning artist with an unmatched following.

The point I am trying to make is that loss of life seems to transform those who are left behind into pathological liars. All of a sudden, eulogies read like the deceased were saints, when they were sinners. A druglord becomes “an integral part of the community”, crime kingpins are labelled as “entrepreneurs who did whatever it took to put food on the table” and unfaithful partners are referred to as “endearing humans with a spirit to keep giving.” Yah. They kept giving to everyone alright!

You don’t have to tell me how genuinely funny “S’dumo” was, as I grew up watching his antics on shows such as Sgudi Snaysi. The man is the definition of physical theatre, just by the way he delivered punchlines and used his body language to get a joke across. But does that mean because he is no longer with us, we can start calling “Shebeleza” one of the best South African songs ever penned?