The Passing of Mduduzi Tshabalala.

This is an opinion piece inspired by a friend who wrote the following words and I could not help but agree more.

An extract by Foxx Magengenene:

Mduduzi “Mandoza” Tshabalala’s passing reminded me yet again of why I don’t want a funeral when I die.
Day after day Mandoza was the centre of self-hating memes and general mockery ridiculing his English speaking abilities. Consistent with the psychopathology of blackness, to seek to measure any form of sophistication with the ruler of whiteness, Mandoza was victimised and disrespected for his speaking more than he was celebrated and revered for his contributions to South African music.

Mandoza was a pioneer of a generation whose voice had never been heard before, and they were tasked with creating an expressive art form that spoke of their material conditions of township life – the concentration camps of apartheid. This is what kwaito was, music expression of things that happened in the townships. Never, however, did we honour Mandoza for his art, we found what was in our minds supposedly flawed about him and made fun of it. In Africa, we were making fun of a Zulu man for how his command of a foreign language was not what we expected; in the same Africa where most of the foreigners can’t utter a sentence in any native language.

Today he is gone and he can’t hear a word we say, we will be “celebrating” him and saying all things good about him. He will be inaugurated into halls of fame and monuments that he will never see will be erected in his name. We humans are wretched things really, we are dishonest even to ourselves. The simple principle is that when you love or even admire a person, you tell them while they can hear you. Don’t wait to build a mansion on top of their grave when you failed to show the slightest appreciation when they were alive. Let us not be dishonest.

Mduduzi Tshabalala’s soul rest in peace, may we remember him as the archetypal example of the Gramscian cultural hegemony of Eurocentrism over us blacks, that we will ridicule our own for not being European enough and forget to honour them for their brilliance in expressing black art until it is too late and they are gone.” – Foxx Magengenene

I could not agree more. Distastefully so, because I somewhat contributed to the ridicule of Mandoza. Ironic because I myself am from the township and to some extent had received the same township Bantu education Mduduzi Tshabalala had been subjected to. I too understand the depth and importance of Kwaito music. Kwaito wasn’t just a genre of cool, entitled young people who seek validation out of sheer narccissism. It was an escape route, an alternative and a freedom that you didn’t have to earn. Kwaito was the heartbeat of the township, it was the sound of an era and Mandoza stood at the centre of it and lead his comrades and fellow kwaito artists with the edge of his pen and the sound of his voice.

I now find myself trying to figure out what it means to take things it too far. Has it taken the death of this man for us to realise we have laughed in the face of an icon? We are a nation of opinionated voices and outspoken vessels. The township was created to harbour darkness and strife. Through art, we escaped. Through art, we found a voice and Kwaito was that voice for the younger lions from eKasi. Kwaito had pioneers before Mandoza. The likes of Spikiri, Senyaka, Arthur Mafokate, Mdu Masilela… the list goes on.
Mduduzi “Mandoza’ Tshabala had a certain flair about him, a command of the beat like no other. He made Kwaito young again. He made kwaito relevant again and one that crossed over to rugby matches, techno parties and corporate events.

All these feats achieved and yet we still managed to keep him under the bus of shame we threw him under. Speaking of shame, these days you’ll hear people talk about being slut-shamed for their actions, body shamed for their weight. Yet we continuously Euro-shamed Mandoza without shame. Mandoza was the butt of the joke but the problem was never Mandoza. The man had his flaws but who can say they aren’t flawed.

What is wrong with society, our heroes are the pick of the litre when we attack or defame characters. This isn’t much but an apology to thee Nkalakatha, for when it suited me most I danced to your brilliance and when it appeased us most I mocked your shortfalls. May your soul rest now Mshengu. May our nation find itself through self-introspection and an appreciation of self. Your music lives forever.