If you ever come across the trophy of the Eastern Cape Winners of the Sowetan/Anglo-American’s Young Communicators Awards- you will see my name first, as the winner in 2000. You will see other names of incredible, talented learners who would go on to represent the province and bring it honour for years to come. You will see that in 2007, a young girl called Thembi Losi from Alexander High School in Port Elizabeth was the winner. I was present the day she won in East London. She stood up to speak, her eyes connected with her audience and they beamed. An incredible light filled her face and I swear it felt the sun itself was present in that room- such was her incredible aura.
I picked Thembi as my winner before she even completed her prepared speech. I was right. She won the Eastern Cape leg of the contest, & marched on to victory & won the nationals that year.
For many years after that day, I quietly observed her growth. Her young age seemed no obstacle or factor in the milestones and achievements in her young life. I would watch Thembi blossom into an incredible woman. Just before I left Cape Town last year where I had been working as a Specialist Journalist at SABC- I shared brunch with Thembi, my cousin and her fellow students at UCT and a small group of their friends- amazing young women who made my heart swell with such an incredible pride- because in them I saw why it’s a lie to say those younger than us are a ‘lost generation’.
I told a friend after that brunch, that if those young women represented the future of South Africa I had every right to be confident about the future of this country. They and Thembi- represented a singleness of will, purity of spirit, and an attitude totally untainted by the harshness of the world around them. And how they loved God. How eager they were to make their parents, their families, their communities proud of them. How ready they were to be the game-changers in this country and this world. I remember thinking how I wish I could just cover them under a protective blanket, hide them from all ills of the world… I last chatted to Thembi about three weeks ago. I told her I can’t wait for her to come to Johannesburg to start her career as an investment banker at Rand Merchant Bank. I told her she has a big sister in me. I told her how incredibly proud I was of her, that I’d be here for her to make sure she gets by and that I’d support her. I will never have that opportunity. God decided to take her from us on the 30th of December 2013.
Since I received the devastating news of her passing, I’ve been bitterly lamenting the tragedy of having to mourn such a young life and an extremely promising one at that. In so doing, I recalled AP Mda’s eulogy to Anton Lembede published in “Imvo zabantsundu”.
“It is not the tragedy of death that we lament, but the tragedy of life. We feel that death has been unkind. It nipped the bud in its first spring. Darkness descended at sunrise.”
Like Lembede, Thembi Losi feared God and loved her fellow human being. Like him, she believed that Education, is the gateway to high spheres: socially, politically and economically.
I will miss this exceptional young woman, not just in the present, but more so in the future. I believe South Africa as a whole is poorer for her passing. She was a young leader in the making. She was someone who would’ve easily ascended any position of influence when our generation’s time came. I can think of no better tribute to her her memory than to pick up where she left off, to live this life with vigor, with fire, and with the resolve that says our youth isn’t a time to slumber, but to dream with our eyes wide open and readily equip ourselves with all the tools we have at our disposal in making our dreams a reality.
One of the last things Thembi ever said to me, something I had shared with her many months prior in explaining that in all that we strive to become, however we choose to become it, we must ensure that those who quietly observe us from a distance, always recollect primarily of us that we were first and foremost good, upstanding human beings. She sent me a message, and all she wrote was: “I will say of you Sisi Asanda- ‘Ungumntu’.” I could choose to recall Thembi in terms of her accolades and achievements, but allow to simply say: “Thembi Pumeza Losi- I will say only this of you: ‘Ubungumntu’. You were an exceptional human being, a beautiful soul with a golden heart. Your life was a gift you shared freely and unhesitatingly. Your mind was an incredible fertile ground from which flowed incredible ideas of a better country and world you were proud to call your home. This world was a better place by virtue of you being alive in it. Whilst you were alive, you shone ever so bright. How fortunate I am to have known you and loved you. It was too short a while and too brief a distance but… Umzamo omhle uwuzamile (You have tried your best); Ugqatso ulufezile (You have completed the race).”
Rest in peace baby girl.