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THABO DANCED AS HE DID ON PITCH

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(Guest writer)
My friendship with Thabo ‘Damara’ Mpama dates way back to the mid-1960s.
Thabo and I grew up in Mbabane together. He was slightly younger than me.


If I were to borrow words from Wayne Henderson of the Jazz Crusaders music band, I would say I knew his family. Likewise Thabo knew my family.
I knew Thabo when he was six years old, from the same neighbourhood. I did my primary and high school at Salesian in Manzini while Thabo was at St Mark’s Primary and High school.


We both loved pop music that was played by radio stations like LM and Springbok. Popular music artists those days were Credence Clear Water Revival, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sir Elton John, to mention but a few.


After High school, Thabo and I started enjoying soul music from artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Brook Benton, to mention but a few. In his late 1980’s, Thabo and I, lived in the same apartment block in the centre of Mbabane Parkview heights.


swapped


We swapped apartments and Thabo moved into my bedsitter.
Both of us were eligible bachelors. I would cook. When the meal was ready, I would tap on the window and alert him that dinner/lunch was ready.
Thabo would do the same and call me when the meal he had prepared was ready. He loved pumpkins. A meal without pumpkin was not a complete meal for Thabo.


It was Thabo and Wilfred ‘Maria Maria’ Fakudze accompanied by members of my family who took me to Mbabane Government Hospital when I fell sick in 1988.
My condition worsened and I had to be driven to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg by members of my family in the company of Wilfred Fakudze, where an unsuccessful back surgery left me confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.


I spent six months at Baragwanath Hospital. Thabo and Wilfred would come visit me on a regular basis all the way from Eswatini. After Baragwanath I spent yet another three months at Mbabane government hospital.


Thabo and Wilfred would visit me often. Thabo and I continued with our friendship until it was time for him to move to South Africa for greener pastures.
Thabo became one of the most successful businessmen in South Africa. He came to Eswatini a lot. Each time he came he would bring me CDs and DVDs because he knew I was a music lover.


I know all the songs he used to love. I made a selection of 14 songs Thabo loved listening to.
 His number one song was ‘What Might Have Been’ by the Impressions.


In the 1990s, Thabo was offered a government scholarship to pursue his Master’s degree in Public Administration in Liverpool, England.
As a kind gesture, with friends, we hosted his farewell party at my apartment. Friends in attendance included among others Wilfred Fakudze, Jabu Ngubane, Gezani Felix Bhembe and Lloyd Maziya.


Hit songs for the party were ‘Personal Touch’ by Errol Brown and ‘Casanova’ by Gerald Levert and his brothers.
At that party, Thabo met the love of his life, Nozipho Mabuza, who eventually became the mother of his children. Sorry for your loss, Mshengu. God has taken and He shall also provide during the absence of your late husband.


Thabo and I loved fun. We attended almost all parties in the Mbabane-Manzini corridors. We were party animals according to today’s language, however, our fun was clean because none of us took alcohol or smoked.
We got high on Coca-Cola and Fanta Orange. Thabo did not like fast music but adored love songs. I used to be the DJ in most of the parties.


After playing a few fast songs, I used to indicate to Thabo and other friends that I was about to play a slow song so that they get closer to the ladies they wanted to dance with. With Thabo and myself, it did not matter how strict parents were with their daughters.
We would approach them and sought permission to take them out to parties and movies. By so doing, Thabo and I were given the name ‘batsakatsi’ by our friends for the courage we had.


convince


Thabo and myself would convince parents that their daughters were safe with us. Most parents trusted Thabo and I, as they allowed us to take their daughters out.
I hate you COVID-19 pandemic for depriving me of a chance to give Thabo a proper send-off that he deserved.


However, my friend wherever you are now, rest assured that I will be at your memorial and burial services spiritually to comfort your loved ones you suddenly left. We had the best of fun on earth. I trust we will continue doing so in the next world. Rest in eternal peace until we meet again. Hamba kahle wakitsi!


(The late former Mbabane Swallows winger Thabo ‘Damara’ Mpama will be laid to rest at Westpark cemetery, Johannesburg on Wednesday. A memorial service will be held tomorrow at St. Stithians School Chapel) 

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