Picture: THINKSTOCK
Image: None Picture: THINKSTOCK

Umhlobo Wenene news reader Lindani Bekwa, who died last week after a long illness, was a football lover first and foremost.

High up among his loves were Marks Maponyane and Kaizer Chiefs.

For a time, he modelled himself after the athlete. Like his hero, Bekwa sported a perm in the late 1980s. He also adopted "Marks" as his nickname, which some insisted on spelling "Marx", to his annoyance.

Encoded deep in his genes was a superb actor. He proved a natural the moment he stood in the spotlight and spoke someone else’s words.

It neither looked nor sounded as if he was playing a character. Bekwa became the character on stage and transported audiences to other worlds and vistas with perfect ease. He had an extremely expressive face, accented by slightly bulging eyes, which gave him a passing resemblance to African American writer James Baldwin.

By all accounts, he was an exceptional radio newscaster and sports commentator, and a favourite of many a listener

In 1988, when schools reopened after months of protests, Marks and I were in the cast of Tom Stoppard’s Albert’s Bridge at Nombulelo Senior Secondary School in Grahamstown. Our school, the only participating township one, competed against Kingswood College, Graeme College and StAndrew’s College in the Eisteddfod at which the winning school got the chance to perform at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. No one thought we would win, but the Albert’s Bridge cast made a splash at the festival and had good reviews in local and national newspapers. A clip was even flighted on TV!

Bekwa and I later wrote plays for our school’s drama group. He was a prolific writer and continued producing scripts even dangerously close to exams. He landed a leading role in a Passion Play at the Settlers Monument that had the whole of Grahamstown talking.

At high school, he was never first to volunteer to read aloud in class. That changed after Mr Dude, our Xhosa teacher, remarked on how beautiful his reading was.

A year or two after he left school, Bekwa trained as a broadcaster and started working at Umhlobo Wenene, the Xhosa-language broadcaster that claims 4.6-million listeners.

By all accounts, he was an exceptional radio newscaster and sports commentator, and a favourite of many a listener.

Proof of this is in the outpouring of emotion on social media following his departure. His employers and colleagues at the radio station have taken his death hard, with several mourning the far-too-soon demise of a great talent.

Bekwa will be laid to rest in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. He leaves behind a wife, two sons. Lala ngoxolo Zotsho, Ngutyana, Ngcwayi, Sbizela, Khoza!

RIP, homeboy.

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