HAPPY FATHER(LESS) DAY … AS NATIONS MOURN LEGENDS
Written by: Mfundo Mabaso
With Father’s Day just around the corner, people find themselves reminiscing over legendary men that have contributed a great deal in the various fields of sporting, entertainment and politics. The names such as South Africa’s very own Nyembezi Kunene, Nigeria’s Stephen ‘Son of the Soil’ Keshi and boxing legend, Mohamed Ali, have been in the news recently not for their fatherly roles, but for their deaths.
The loss of these legends has not only been suffered by their families and close friends but, is a loss to many due to their influence in society and the positive impact played within their respective fields of occupation.
On the 5th of June, the country was shocked to learn of Nyembezi Kunene’s sudden passing. The unexpected passing of the 1959 born Kunene at Lesedi Hospital in Soweto came after a long battle with diabetes.
The actor, director, play writer and producer had been in the television industry for over three decades. He had directed, and played in some of the most popular soapies. Kunene became a household name for his role as the strict head of security on Emzini Wezinsizwa, and on Generations as uncle Jabulani. He also made appearances in dramas, comedies and soapies such as Gaz’lam, Mfolozi Street, Soul City, Umlilo, It’s Complicated, Intersexions, Abo Mzala, Isibaya, Single Guys, Ring of Lies, Like Father Like Son, Mzansi Love and his latest appearance being on Scandal.
He also directed the Durban based comedy sitcom, Family Bonds alongside the late Mandla Thabethe.
Another legendary man who was recently laid to rest is Muhammad Ali.
Ali was an American Olympic and professional boxer. He was also voted BBC’s Sporting Personality of the Century in 1999. Ali was the only boxer to have been named Boxer of the Year five times by Ring Magazine.
Beside his long lived sporting life, he was an activist for religion, race and politics, which earned him the title ‘Messenger of Peace’ by the United Nations in 1998 for his work of developing nations.
Ali had the chance to meet Nelson Mandela when he was released from prison in 1990.
According to popular news network, BBC, Muhammad Ali dedicated his life, both locally and globally to helping those in need and to work towards gender, economic and racial equality. He traveled the world to learn about its people, inspire religious tolerance and offer assistance where he could. He worked generously with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Special Olympics, visited soup kitchens, and raised money through celebrity fight nights.
“I’ve always wanted to be more than just a boxer, more than just the three-time heavyweight champion. I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well, to help uplift and inspire people around the world,” said Ali, in an address he once made at the UN Special Committee against Apartheid.
Keshi’s accolades in soccer are beyond great as he was seen in most of the major tournaments in Africa and worldwide. Having participated as a coach in Nigeria’s very own, born and bred in the city of Azare, Bauchi State, Sthephen Keshi was not just a soccer legend but he left a huge mark in the Nigerian soccer fraternity, being one of only two people who have won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) as both a player and a coach, FIFA World Cup twice, in 2006 and 2014, and the AFCON. The soccer fraternity and Nigeria as a nation have indeed lost a one of a kind.
While nations mourn legends that have contributed in the upliftment and development of their industries respectively, their families mourn the death of a father, breadwinner, mentor and pillar.
“To lose a father is something small when you think of it but the impact of it in a long run is huge. These three men at least got the opportunity to make a mark while they were still alive, in both their families and people around them,” said Samantha Mvulana, who grew up in the absence a father.
For many like Mvulana, Father’s Day serves as a reminder of the void their fathers left in their lives.