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.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories

How graft arrests came together

Learning from its failure to turn the Schabir Shaik conviction into one for Jacob Zuma, the state is now building an effective system for catching thieves. Khaya Koko, Sabelo Skiti and Paddy Harper take a look behind the scenes at how law enforcement agencies have started creating consequences for the corrupt

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland

This beef smells like manure

What’s that animal sound? Is it a Hawk swooping? A chicken roosting? No, it’s Zuma remembering a beef

Editorial: Arrests expose the rot in the ANC

The ANC has used its power to create networks of patronage. And this means going after corruption will cost the party financially

eThekwini’s everlasting security contract

An invalid contract worth R85-million a month is still being paid — three years after a court order to stop

Zuma vs Ramaphosa? Neither is the leader South Africans deserve

Neither statesman could command sufficient authority in an ANC that remains mired in corruption and infighting and at the behest of big capital

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Air pollution link in 15% of global Covid-19 deaths

Researchers have found that, because ambient fine particulate air pollution aggravates comorbidities, it could play a factor in coronavirus fatalities

Mboweni plans to freeze public sector wage increases for the...

The mid-term budget policy statement delivered by the finance minister proposes cutting all non-interest spending by R300-billion.

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech

BMW X3 thrives in the M stable

The compact SUV is so at home with its new badge that’s it’s surprising it didn’t happen sooner

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday