Siya and Thobani's deaths robbed us all

Covering their funerals taught me that you never feel more united as a community than when you lose one of your own

14 May 2018 - 07:36 By Kyle Zeeman
Siyasanga's father, Norman Kobese, is overcome with emotion as his daughter's body is lowered into the ground at the Queenstown cemetery.
Siyasanga's father, Norman Kobese, is overcome with emotion as his daughter's body is lowered into the ground at the Queenstown cemetery.

Tragedy struck the small towns of Queenstown and Fort Beaufort two weeks ago when Siyasanga Kobese and Thobani Mseleni were killed in a car crash that also took the lives of Akhumzi Jezile and two others. 

I've visited enough small towns across the country to know that there is a whole world outside of Joburg and that there is a spirit in them that is hard to shake off. 

It is that spirit that creates a sense of community. Because that is what I feel when I saw people pause and wipe their eyes when they passed a mural of Thobani painted on a wall in the heart of Fort Beaufort. It is also what I felt when I saw women, dozens of women, rush to help make food to feed guests at Siyasanga's funeral.

I saw it in the eyes of Thobani's aunt who, despite her grief, found time to dish us a plate of food to eat and make sure we were comfortable while visiting his family home. And again as men and women huddled around Siyasanga's parents, trembling with emotion, as they watched their daughter's body being lowered into the ground.

It was also in the hundreds of tears shed as a heartbroken mother declared, with a voice filled with emotions, "I cannot explain what I feel right now. Life is so unfair. I never thought I would bury my daughter. I only have one desire, that is to go to heaven because I know that is where you are. Siya, you were my light, my morning star, my beautiful little girl. It is so unfair that you have been taken. It just doesn't make sense."

The funny thing about life is you never feel more united as a community than when you lose one of your own.

Everywhere we went, we were met with smiling faces and open homes. But underneath it all, there is a sadness at the passing of these two stars who meant so much to not only their families, but everyone to whom their lives touched.

Here's just one example of that:

Driving into Queenstown, we commented how small it was and guessed that there would not be a lot of people at Siyasanga's funeral, at least not as much as at her packed memorial in Joburg just a few days earlier. When it started raining the night before the service, forcing the venue to be changed at the 11th hour, that assumption seemed spot on. 

The next morning, we were waiting at the old venue to be escorted to the new one, when we commented on the traffic on an adjacent road. There were cars as far as the eye could see. Little did we know that those cars were all heading to the new venue and there would be so many mourners at the service, they would twice need to bring in more chairs for community members. Everyone wanted to be there to say goodbye.

The rain in Queenstown didn't last very long. Like the tears shed for Thobani, Siyasanga, Akhumzi and everyone else who died that day, it was a bitter fall that eventually made way for rays of warmth and hope.

People are often hold back their emotions when they see a camera or microphone.  The death of these stars was not like that. There was no hiding. They were very real and extremely sincere. We were allowed into the most intimate place: the heart when it is broken.

"We have nothing to hide. We are a simple family that does not have much to offer and we have had to tell ourselves that our Thobani is gone. He won't come back and whatever we do, we cannot change that. We will one day heal, but we cannot lie to God and say we are alright when we are not."

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