Amid the doom and gloom and the dark clouds that have engulfed us in the last week or so, one finds comfort in that this has got to be the easiest column in a while.
I say ‘easy’ not because the topic itself is a happy one but I say it is ‘easy’ as the people I intend paying tribute to are as deserving as anyone can be. They have served their country and their profession with dignity, dedication and fortitude. As public servants go, none has epitomised that title more than the late Auditor General, Kimi Makwethu, who went about his arduous and grim task without complaining even though, as it turned out, he had been battling cancer for four years.
You never heard him complain or miss work as to him serving his country was more than just a theory, he lived it. I had a pleasure of knowing Makwethu personally when I arrived at UCT in 1989 and stayed in the same residence as him that year. That was only one year, over 30 years ago but whenever I saw him, when he had become the AG he would be the same old polite, friendly and down to earth Kimi we all knew more than three decades ago. He would call you by name and greet you first unlike so many of our top public servants who have airs about them and want to be treated like Gods.
Kimi went to his grave after serving his country honestly and without any whiff of scandal, something that is rare these days with many of our public servants. We dare not soil his memory by lowering the bar in that office and in many other spheres of the civil service as that would mean the dedication and sacrifices the likes of Kimi made would all have been in vain. Compare him with the other spectacle that happened in Bloemfontein on Friday last week, where a person mobilises the very same people who, under his watch, were defrauded of millions of rands and denied services through alleged corrupt practices. People entrusted their lives and destiny on his shoulders time after time hoping that as the top civil servant in the Free State he would look after them and deliver on their needs. Instead, R240 million was paid out and no asbestos roofing was replaced while he played a role of being a super ‘Blesser’ in the province dispensing money wherever he fancied.
This is the kind of public servant we have to totally reject and isolate if we want this country to be anywhere what the likes of Makwethu envisaged and strived for. Unfortunately, that is the calibre of people we are now left with to be in charge of our lives. We are truly cursed. How could I finish without paying tribute to a person I also considered a friend – Sthembiso ‘Sterra’ Ngqezana of Umhlobo Wenene FM.
Sterra revolutionised the way sport is broadcast and he introduced a more intimate approach to sport broadcasting. No tournament was too small for him and he treated the sportsperson from the rural Ntabankulu the same way as the more famous ones from Mdantsane. The country has lost a great man in Sterra and may his soul rest in peace. The baton has been passed on to the rest of us to make this country a better place than it is and to be hostile to destructive forces all around us. We dare not fail or history will judge us harshly.