Since You’ve been gone.



It’s been seven years since you’ve been gone. Seven years! Damn, I swear it feels like it was just yesterday when I got that terrible midnight call. “Eish Ndoda, Kavani’s been shot”.

A lot has happened since that day. I’ve been meaning to write to you but I always revert to that self-censoring mode that makes me think I’m too focused on self. But when I realized that I might never outgrow that mode I threw caution to the wind and decided to let you in on what has gone on since that fateful night on 07/07/07.

Where do I start? Do you know you became an uncle five times over in the past six years. Your siblings have been a bit busy. The first one was born six months and 10 days to the day you left us. He bears your initials, MJ. Not only that, you share the same middle name. And the M name is a translation of that middle name. MJ huh? Bet you thought it was Michael Jackson. Oh but you loved that man and his music.

Sadly he has passed on too. I watched his memorial on TV and silently swallowed my tears for fear of being misunderstood. I don’t think anyone but you will understand the connection. Do you remember when you were just ten and I brought back my music cassette case during varsity holidays? Yes, the one I told you not touch under any circumstances. I cannot forgot the look on your face when you told me the tape player had messed up my Michael Jackson original tape of Dangerous.

When Michael Jackson visited South Africa in 1997 you twisted dad’s hand to get tickets for us boys to take you to watch him. I can’t forget the awe and wonder on your face when Michael Jackson did his almost falling over act. I have to admit, I too was convinced he had some invisible ropes holding him in place. And that euphoric feeling after the concert when you just want to buy everything Michael Jackson.

I still have a poster and his History World Tour Magazine somewhere amongst my belongings. They are not in good shape but I cannot get myself to get rid of them, I can’t clean out my closet like Eminem. Oh yes Eminem. My brother, I have to hand it to you, you influenced my attitude towards rap music more than any other person I know. Yes I liked a bit of Tupac’s music but you made me embrace his genius, to see beyond the profanities. Do you remember us rocking ‘Carlifonia Love’ as we entered the King David’s school premises in the Toyota Cressida?

Look, it’s one thing to navigate your way around a parking area teeming with top-of-the-range SUVs in Sandton’s King David School, but to do that in a Toyota Cressida with Tupac’s voice booming “…welcome everybody to the Wild Wild West”. I felt bad. The good kind of bad. And it was all thanks to you. I remember walking into a Look and Listen outlet looking for Marshall Mathers III and you schooling me on why it’s ok when Eminem says he wished his dad dead and a whole lot of other rap higher education besides.

When that midnight call came from my sister on that fateful night, in my mind nothing so terrible could ever happen to you that all I said was “Which hospital has he been taken to?” Even my subconscious could never associate you with such a violent end. Not my little brother, No, Not Him.

It took me a long while to be alone following the hurried, blurred and painful events of that night. But when I was alone, as I bawled my eyes out, I could not stop myself repeating : “No, Not my little brother. It was not your time.”

The dark period that followed, I’m still too mentally fragile to go back to the countless visits that I made to the police station to follow up on the case. My man, My main man. Oh but I tried. See, I felt really responsible for the failure of the police to apprehend your killer. I’m your big brother, I should have protected you, I should have. Protect. You learnt to do that quite early in your life.

I always admired the way you protected our little sister, the baby in the family. You were just a little baby yourself when you guys went to Cresslawn Primary, but I cannot forget how much she depended on you, how she wouldn’t do certain things unless you were there. How you had to wait for her in after-care when she had extra-murals. You never complained.

And when you changed schools to Midrand, you continued to protect her. I was deeply moved when she told me how when you were in varsity you sat down with her to help her make decisions about which subjects she should choose at school. You were a better bigger brother than I was.

Funny to think I was thought you were such a spoilt brat at one stage. You won’t remember this but when you were about three or four you came to visit us in the village. When our grandmother served you tea and bread you turned the slice of bread over and declared “I don’t eat unbuttered bread”. My jaw dropped. The cheek! And granny made a plan, ha! In my wildest dreams I would never have gotten away with such demands.

It must have had something to do with being the fourth child because damn, you always got away with murder. Remember how you called McGyver “my McGyver”. And Michael Night. Our father had to go and get you that talking car, Kitt was it?. I couldn’t understand why the world had to stop for you. You owned the TV in the house. We were all at your mercy.

At your funeral I wanted to tell everyone about all these things. To tell them that my little baby brother who had such a lazy manner about him had these qualities that made me look up to him. No, I did look up to you. When I heard you were the General Secretary of the Pharmacy Students Council at varsity my pride knew no bounds, that’s my boy I said. That’s my boy.

You made me want to be a better big brother. You made me want to impress you. Remember the one time at the Boulders Shopping Centre? You saw this pretty girl and looked at me? Yes, the time you wanted me to make a plan for you to chat to her. You were so impressed when I didn’t hesitate in approaching her and said my little brother wants to chat to you. I never told you but I had met her before, I knew her family so those were the easiest brownies I ever scored. I was heartbroken when I discovered she didn’t hear of your passing for up to two months.

When I told her older sister, she seemed more hurt than her little sister. That’s what you did, you touched more hearts than you intended.

Every once in a while I go back to that video of you giving a talk two weeks before your passing. I watch it and think to myself, he would have made a great pharmacist.

About two years ago I walked into a pharmacy to get some medication. The young man behind the counter stared at me in a very strange way. He continued to serve me whilst stealing these little stares at me, until he got the courage to say, “I don’t want to open closed wounds but are you in any way related to the Majoko kid who passed away in his final year at varsity?”

I assured him that he could speak freely. He said he had just had the freakiest moment of his career because he could see you in me. And after all these years he still spoke reverentially of you. I guess like me, he felt sorry that such a promising life had been cut so short.

That was me right after you passed on. I felt so sorry for you. So sad. I went in to a depression so bad that I contemplated ghastly thoughts of avenging your death. Crazy right? I mean, like really. But I feel you should know. I felt the people you called your friends betrayed you.

That night, you had done the most selfless thing by visiting your friend in hospital, and even taking along another friend(or friends) on the trip there. Sadly, the friend you visited in hospital that night passed away shortly after you passed on. I can’t understand why the people you sacrificed so much for could not feel indebted to you enough to volunteer the truth about that evening.

Officially your death remains unsolved. Unofficially we know you were shot in what we believe was a case of mistaken identity. Your friend’s family know what happened that night, but I figure self-preservation is a much stronger animal instinct than bringing closure to our family. If only they knew that our family’s beyond retribution by now.

I would much rather someone owned up. Apologize. That’s what people don’t get. It’s not about the law, jail, revenge. It’s about people. Living people. People who ask themselves the same question over and over and over again. That’s what that Pistorius boy doesn’t get, it’s about the mother, the father, the siblings, her people. It’s not about him. But that’s just me getting upset.

I think of the people in the house where you lost your life. There were at least two kids your age or younger in that house. The kids and their parents silence cannot be cheap. I hope at some point they know that they can get their freedom back by giving us our closure.

My little brother, I got side-tracked. This was about me remembering you. The spoilt you. The responsible you. The perfect brother. I intended to tell you about Kaizer Chiefs, Man United and a whole lot more. To tell you about Lawu, Rori, Ntwanano, Kona, Lwandle, Nalwo and Rofhiwa.

I wanted to tell you that I still live my life to make you proud because you were deprived of that chance. That our mom’s gotten better since that terrible time. And dad, I know he still has this question: “What had my boy done wrong to be killed like that?” I know because the weeks following your death we sat and spoke for hours. We never got an answer to that question.

But I also know that like me, he appreciates that the twenty three years that you spent here, could not have been spent better. I have gotten better too. I have my moments. Some good, some really bad but I’ve discovered ‘better living through chemistry’. More about that some other time.

A while after you passed on it hit me that our world stopped for you when you were a baby because your time was limited on this earth. You had to spread all the love you could in that twenty three years. And you did.

In the year that you passed on I didn’t celebrate my birthday. My birthday month partner was gone. I have toyed with the idea of celebrating my birthday on the 16th of August instead of the 11th, but it’s a little difficult to explain this to the world. I haven’t given up on this though, I mean, what’s five days between brothers?

I’m off to play Eminem’s “When I’m gone”. You were crazy about this song. Wish I could ask you, Did you know? I’ll throw in a bit of MJ’s “Gone too soon”. And Eternal too. Damn, I’ll play all the songs that I had intended to put onto your memorial CD back then.

07/07/07. Like I said in your obituary, our pain will get better, but we will never forget you.

With love,
Your Big Brother.

15 responses

  1. Zanele Mthimunye | Reply

    Bhut’ Sydney, I remember the day, the month and the year. It was a tragic one, as we also buried our sister five months later. Till this day, we have no idea what happened to her.

    How do people sleep knowing they withheld information that could bring peace to other people’s life. And I’m over wanting the perpetrators to do jail time or wanting them dead. I just wanna know what really happened on that night, so we could find peace. That’s all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zanele, thank you so much for reading. I too remember clearly that period, including your sister’s passing. I remember trying to comfort your mom, knowing that she is going through exactly what my mom was going through. I felt your pain and still feel it. But that’s life I guess. We learn to appreciate the good moments more because we know that they can turn bitter. One thing I’m grateful for that I think your family should be grateful for too are loving memories which no one, not even those that took their lives can take away.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t let him go,I still can’t have a good laugh without thinking of him,when my kids cry endlessly they remind me of him,I have not been to Hospital View since he passed away,because seven years ago that family that stays there took him from me,it’s was cold that day,it was a cruel way to go,I always thought I could take care of my siblings 07/07/07 the day the true definition on a Brother was taken from us…….”you are not alone” in a Michael Jackson voice. Tell what sometimes when pips do Eish to me I feel like telling them nita va byela But’wamina,so did a good job, you still are,love you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My brother, it’s difficult to let him go when those that know the truth choose to keep silent. But I feel sorry for them too, genuinely. I wonder what it must be like for them to watch the Oscar Pistorius trial, or to continue living in that house knowing what they know. But damn, Kavani brought us so much joy through being who he was. I too see him in my own kids. The way Lawu looks after Rori reminds me of the love he had for Telo. Lawu used to cry nonstop too, and in my mind I just thought that’s my brother right there. In the bigger scheme of things we were simply too blessed to have him touch our lives. That’s why I’m always thankful.


  3. Thank you for sharing this with us, Sydney. Most of all for reminding us that it’s not all sadness when someone goes. Better to love and lose than if we had never had them at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Better to love and lose than if we never had them at all. There is nothing more true than that Heidi. The pain is unbearable when fresh, but sometimes I’m grateful for it because it makes me live in the moment. It allows me to love abundantly, knowing that one day they might not be there. I smother my kids with love, hugs and kisses. I tell them I love them every chance I get, and I teach them to say it back. All because that unbearable pain taught me. Thanks for reading Heidi, as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. i remember when mhani Called in da morning and i was with my cuzin all by ourselves and she said ” Kati, Sit down, Malume Kavani has passed on He was Shot, Im way to b with my family” i stoped writing my assignment i sat I wasnt Sad at 1st I was beyond Angry i wanted da world to.crush and Burn i had lost da opportunity to have seen u in March.. I ddnt know you much Uncle but Fana still remembers Malum Kavani. you were just too kind with us smiling, i remember walking into your room and u pretend, to be sleeping with ur eyes open n we sneaked out with aunty telo.

    in 2007 December i sat with my granddad. and told him i want to be a lawyer i want to follow up on you death i want to persecute. those who killed you.

    in 2010 i sat with him again n he asked me wat i wanted to do i told him da same story i still will fulfill it. I found a pic of you wearing a blazer with the UL logo and APS. i knew you were good at dis so i went to da same varsity and became a very vocal comrade.. just coz u inspired me. Kokwane (grandma) shared stories with me about how u enjoyed reading about freedom fighter it gave me motive. Malume Syd n Chivi have been great! so has Aunty T&T. il never forget you


    1. Thanks for reading Mikateko, much appreciated. I’m glad that you too was inspired by Kavani. It’s amazing how much love and inspiration he left behind, at only twenty three. I’m glad that his life has allowed you to want to improve your own. Thank you for being the best niece in the whole wide world. Much love.


  6. Feel the anguish mate and hope soon rather than later you and your family will find the closure you rightly deserve. Sterkte!


    1. Thank you. Much appreciated.


  7. Thanks for sharing the happiness you shared with your brother and the tragedy of your loss, Syd. Beautifully put.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Brandee. Always appreciated.


  8. I admire how genuinely you wrote this letter to your brother, and how boldly you shared it with us. I admire how well you recall and describe your memories and losses.


  9. Sara Mahlatji | Reply

    It’s amazing how with each new trend in music and clothes I would wonder and guess which one would be would have liked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s our world now Sara, trying to age along with him in our minds. It is comforting though that 12 years on he isn’t anywhere close to being forgotten.


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