THE BIG READ: Getting a proper send-off - Times LIVE
Sat Mar 25 17:35:28 SAST 2017

THE BIG READ: Getting a proper send-off

Rams Mabote | 2013-01-11 00:06:22.0
Residents of Braamfischerville, west of Soweto, burying a neighbour Picture: MBUZENI ZULU

It's not every day that we think about how we want to be buried. This is partly due to the fact that we still treat death as taboo and we hardly ever think or want to think about it.

But a week or so ago, while burying my soulmate's dad, I thought that, when I die, I want my funeral service to be held in Dobsonville, Soweto.I would like to be buried by people who truly know me. People who remember and maybe cherish me. People who were interested in and often supportive of my progress.

I would like to be buried in a place where people don't impose their culture and preferences on me but where the practices are common to all.

When I die, slaughter a beast without worrying about cruelty to animals. When I die, let my neighbours' houses share their spaces for catering purposes. When I die, let my friends and family park their cars all over the street without worrying about the body corporate or neighbourhood watch.

Truth is, many of us don't live with our new suburban neighbours. We don't share a past and even our present is manicured and pretentious. At best we tolerate each other. So, you want to live with people who don't know you and when you die you want those you leave behind to have a big nostalgic moment about life before you went to be neighbours with non-neighbours, you may ask?

Yes, and for that I am not apologetic. Matlo ha a ahe metse, we say in Sesotho. Loosely translated, this means "Houses don't build communities".

I just stay where I live, but I don't commune there.

For me home is a sense of place, of my roots. Home is not so much where you live but where you want to go to die, or to be buried. I know where my home is, and it's not where I live, as much as I love this place too.

The fact is, were it not for apartheid's social engineering condemning townships to be hell- holes with inferior infrastructure and poor development, I reckon many of us would not have had to move for practical reasons.

We should build new futures and spaces. Those of us who are nostalgic about our roots need to do actual work to save our townships from ruin.

Someone might ask: "How about making friends with your neighbours while still alive?"

My new neighbours are not my enemies but they will never know me - at least not as the community of Dobsonville has and will always. Maybe our children will become a community and bury each other one day. As for me, I belong to Soweto.

At my funeral service I want people to speak in Tswana, Sotho, Zulu and even tsotsitaal without feeling they owe anyone any translation or apology.

I want people to be able to talk about my schooldays at Senyamo, Makhoarane and Veritas.

I want my friends to reminisce about Sedibeng Theatre, where we all dreamt of being big actors one day. I would like Mammonnye, my childhood neighbour, to talk about how I used black mampatile (hide-and-seek) to steal moments with her.

Someone must talk about the battles between Motherwell and Rangers football clubs, the stone-throwing fights between people fromLos My Cherrie and boys from my section.

I want people to remember me, to laugh at my stupidity, to recall my good deeds (if any), my escapades with girls who by now are women and mothers.

How we bury loved ones in townships encompasses the entire chronology of the deceased's former existence. From tears of sorrow to tears of joy, which we normally call "after tears".

Is that too much to ask for?

  • Mabote is an entrepreneur, propagandist and former journalist


If you have an opinion you would like to share on this article, please send us an e-mail to the Times LIVE iLIVE team. In the mean time, click here to view the Times LIVE iLIVE section.