We mourn a friend and fighter as Zuma jols in Nigeria

Friday the 13th. D-Day for Daddy at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Things are about to get interesting. President Jacob Zuma is about to become an accused person. Again.

The head of state has been talking about getting his day in court since 2005, while instructing his attorney Michael Hulley and his all-star legal team to do their best to ensure that it never actually happens.

Holding one’s breath while waiting for the national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, to take a decision to prosecute Nxamalala is not advisable. Stitch-up Shaun was given this job for a reason. The time has come for Shaun to pay the piper, as it were.

Shaun doesn’t want to put Schabir Shaik on the witness stand against his former boss. Schabir turned down the opportunity to become a Section 205 state witness against Daddy back then. Schabir got 15 years for playing the game, even if it did come with a partial get-out-of-jail-free card.

Schabir’s recollection of events is likely to be a little different this time around, along with his willingness to take one for the team.

It wouldn’t be a good idea to put former Thint bagman Ajay Sooklal on the stand either. Sooklal’s no longer part of Team Daddy, so his interpretation of who did what for whom and for what and why may differ from the Durban high court version.

While the SCA’s preparing to dismiss his latest appeal, Daddy’s off to Nigeria to have roads and statues named after him. Maybe Nigeria is an alternative to Dubai, should Shaun let Daddy down. Daddy used to walk on sunshine at home. These days, he walks among flames.

The mobile goes. It’s photographer Rafs Mayet. The news is bleak. We’ve lost another brother, colleague and friend. Photographer, filmmaker and activist Peter McKenzie has just died.

I’m stunned. Peter had been fighting cancer for the past few years, but he’d been recovering since finishing chemotherapy earlier this year.

Mkhize, the name he carried with pride since his days at Drum magazine in the 1980s, had popped in before leaving for Jozi last Monday. He’d been full of life, excited about his project on the firewalkers at the Cato Manor Temple, with whom he’d been working for the past three years during his sickness.

He’d just presented this work, which dealt heavily with the role of fire as a purifier and the parallels with his own battle with cancer, and was looking forward to exhibiting it around the country.

I’d been on the phone with Mkhize last Thursday night after he got back.

Mkhize had been feeling sick but was still looking forward to a weekend swim at Addington Beach — followed by the compulsory mutton bunny chow and Black Label quart — and some music.

I’m numb. I’d only got to know Mkhize properly since he returned to Durban after living and working in Johannesburg and France. He was born in Durban, grew up here and had returned to set up the Durban Centre for Photography. We’d become close. Family really.

We spent last Christmas Day at Mkhize’s wood-and-iron house in Glenmore, where the eclectic family of friends he had brought together since his return to the city would meet up. Mkhize loved jazz and having people around him, drinking, smoking, talking, dancing.

Mkhize was this fierce, loving cat, a real ghetto defender who wielded his camera the way other people use petrol bombs or saxophones.

Mkhize was a proud black man who refused to let anybody else tell his story. Mkhize’s story ran from Gale Street and Wentworth to France and back again. Mkhize still hadn’t finished telling his story.

Mkhize didn’t “take” pictures. Mkhize “made” pictures, using time, people and space to frame the image he wanted to present to tell the story.

For Mkhize, absolutely everything was political. Everything.

I’m struck by a sense of dread. How do I tell my 11-year-old that Uncle Peter is dead? uZoks, as the laaitieis known, courtesy of his mother’s threat that uzokhala (you will cry), sleeps on a bed Uncle Peter gave him.

uZoks bodyboards using a hand-me-down from Issa, Uncle Peter’s youngest son.

uZoks has a love of photography, courtesy of impromptu lessons with Uncle Peter and his camera. My phone’s full of pictures of the two of them in action. This is gonna be hard.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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