2017 in loss

By Nomali Cele

Regardless of circumstances, death is a loss that’s hardly ever expected. Even when an illness was the cause, there’s avoiding that feeling of shock.  When death happens, we are expected to collect ourselves, be dignified and make peace with it. Regardless of how much we didn’t see the gut-punch coming, we are expected to summarise the deceased’s legacy in tribute and move on. 2017 is the year the local entertainment industry suffered a lot of loss.

We lost 140+ innocent lives

In late 2016, there came a shock that would send a ripple across the public health system. Earlier in the year, and late in 2015, Gauteng Health had started moving mentally disabled patients out of care at Life Esidimeni to NGOs who claimed to care for the mentally disabled. It turned out most of the NGOs were unlicensed and unfit to care for the patients. Resulting in the staggering number of deaths. Lindi Sirame covered the Life Esidiment arbitration process, which was necessitated by the fact that Gauteng Health was not giving the families answers.

 We lost Thandi Klassen

When the news of the passing of South African jazz and Sophia Town legend, Thandi Klassen, broke we were at the beginning of Jazzuary. Thandi Klassen, along with her peers such as Miriam Makeba, Abigail Kubeka, Dorothy Masuka and Dolly Rathebe, was at the forefront of the South African jazz. She passed away at

We lost Lundi Tyamara

At 38 years old, gospel sensation Lundi Tyamara passed away at a Johannesburg hospital after a battle with stomach Tb and liver complications. Having worked in gospel music since he was a teenager, it was only fitting that Tymara was honoured by his gospel music industry colleagues and fans alike.

We lost Joe Mafela

Unexpectedly, legendary actor and musician, Joe Mafela, passed away in a car accident in March. Mafela had made a return to the small screen with a starring role on Mfundi Vundla’s Generations The Legacy. The major talking point after the country was done processing came after his funeral in the form of his tombstone which was designed to depict a living room — complete with a sofa and TV set.

We lost Ahmed Khatrada 

In March, ANC veteran, Ahmed Khatrada, lovingly known as Uncle Kathy, passed away after complications after an operation. Kathrada’s passing came at a critical moral time for the country and his family used his funeral to make a statement that most agreed would have made the struggle hero a proud when the barred president Zuma, whose leadership has been marred by corruption allegations.

We lost Ray Phiri

We were blessed to witness Ray Phiri’s final performance when he took the Bassline Africa Day Concert stage in May. He will remain one the most impactful artists this country has ever produced.

We lost Dumi Masilela

One of the most tragic public deaths of the year was the death of young actor and musician Dumi Masilela during a highjacking. When a young person dies, the potential and what they could have achieved given a longer lifespan. Masilela’s death also had the country abuzz about violent crime.

We lost Robbie Malinga
The news of Robbie Malinga’s passing came at a time when most of us were digesting our second dinners of Christmas Day 2017. A few weeks earlier, Robbie Malinga had been admitted to hospital for exhaustion and, on Christmas Day, news came that he’d passed on. The hit-maker, producer and musician was best known for his work at TS Records and collaborations with young vocalists such as Kelly Khumalo, Zahara, Naima Kay and many more.

2017 is the year we lost ourselves…

From Manchester to Las Vegas, Mogadishu to Puerto Rico and Mexico, Texas and many more places that didn’t make headlines, there was news of loss and senseless deaths across the world. Most people in these places are still rebuilding their lives after the tragedies.

Tragedy and horror are something that the women of South Africa got to know too intimately this year. From girls disappearing to girls and women being found dead at the hands of their loved-ones, 2017 was a dark year for us. From being afraid to take a taxi if the ratio of women to men was off to being terrified when it got dark out and the women in my life hadn’t yet checked in, I can attest that 2017 was a painful year. Of course, there was the watching on my various online timelines as people frantically searched for a missing young woman only for her to be found dead.

Of all the losses we suffered this year, my loss of the feeling of safety as a young black woman is one that hurts most. It’s one we are going to have to make an effort to repair as a culture. And, sadly, I don’t believe we are on the right path to remedying it.

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