Maverick opinion-maker Sam Ditshego has died. He was 64.
An ambulance was called to his home in Kagiso, Mogale City, on the West Rand, yesterday morning where paramedics declared him dead.
A free-thinker whose seminal writing was circulated widely on social media, newspapers and radio, Ditshego always shared his wealth of knowledge. He’d write a well-argued analysis piece in the print media, share something equally cerebral on Facebook and give a radio interview without breaking sweat. His prose in English was as impressive as his diction of his native Setswana. His knowledge on a variety of subjects was encyclopaedic.
Ditshego was a reader. That much came through in his writing and speech.
Former Robben Island inmate Mike Matsobane, who also hails from Kagiso, knew Ditshego well. They were both steeped in the politics of the PAC that Matsobane served two separate terms for on Robben Island, while Ditshego skipped the country into exile, fleeing first to Botswana then Canada.
Matsobane said that “rest assured, everything Sam said, you knew it was after meticulous research”.
After his release from his second stint in jail, Matsobane said it was Ditshego who kept him abreast of world political developments in his correspondence from Botswana and Canada.
As a young man Matsobane came into contact with PAC stalwarts like Potlako Leballo in the underground. He has fascinating tales of his politics but it was always Ditshego who was eager to know more about the PAC, and Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was best advised to turn to.
His memory of the party’s politics was just phenomenal and this is what his readers had come to expect from him each time he penned an article about Poqo, the party of Sobukwe. He eschewed fact-free writing and analysis. He took great care in what he imparted. “He stood for what he believed in,” said Matsobane.
But the mark of the scholar and teacher, Ditshego is best measured by the legions of young PAC followers who drank from his fountain of knowledge. One such is Tebogo Brown who, like his mentor, has grown to become a prolific letter writer to newspaper editors.
“I spoke to him every day,” said Brown of his late idol, “we even spoke longer the day before yesterday. He sounded fine. He did not complain of anything. All he said was that he might have caught a touch of flu after indulging in whiskey.
“But, other than that, he gave no sign of being unwell.”
Yesterday, when he woke up, he was inundated with calls from people wishing to confirm the rumour of Ditshego’s passing. When Brown went to the Ditshego home in Kagiso, hordes of people were already gathered there. “I was not able to go in,” young Brown said.
Father of two, Ditshego worked as a teacher in Botswana when he went into exile, said his son Tshepo, 41. The other son Tebogo, 36, is a well-known communications specialist and media personality. Tebogo took to social media to mourn the passing of his doting dad, who he loved completely. Both boys were born in exile.
“While in Botswana, he and my mom, Elsie, went to study further in Nigeria for two years,” said Tshepo. “He had a fantastic book collection.”
They returned for a while before leaving for Canada where the family lived before returning to South Africa in 1995.
Ditshego apparently contracted Covid-19 from his elder brother, Fox, a former teacher. “They were on a trip to a tombstone unveiling in the North West when my father got infected,” said Tshepo.
A military veteran, Ditshego was taken to the 1 Military Hospital after testing positive at a drive-through testing station north of Joburg, according to Tshepo. “He was then discharged from hospital on Wednesday. He was on medication. He seemed fine. He had no comorbidities.” On Saturday morning the great mind went to sleep.