May 29, 2009

He Who is Without Sin, To Cast the First Stone (The Brenda Fassie Fallacy)

Posted in Food for Thought at 5:31 pm by sonwafuthi


I want to send my sincere apologies to the Fassie family for any inconvenience this article may cause.  I write this article mindful of the pain and suffering you went through because of your loss, and don’t attempt in any way to be little it.


People always say we “…don’t (in the African culture), speak ill of the dead.” I concur with that and add that it is because, our culture assumes and expect good from all people, hence there would be no credible ill to speak of in the fist place.  Ours is not a culture of lies, liars, or cover ups. “Asiwafihli amakhuba kulinywa, asigqumi mbona ngamakhasi”.  Every one has a good and bad side in them, and it is the one that predominates over our actions that defines who we are.  And it is what we do whilst alive that echoes through our eternity.


The 9th of May this year marked the 5th anniversary of Brenda Fassie’s death. Many articles have been written about her life and death, both in and outside South Africa.  However, it was until the week of the 9th this year, when a certain radio station in our country used the week to commemorate her, which my thinking of (her death) on the matter began.

How high we have always held Brenda Fassie high in this country is remarkable, incredible, one would even be tempted to think that we will soon be a Brenda Fassie street at least in kwaLanga, Cape Town, where she was born.  Of cause, she is one of the best musicians, this country has ever produced, and she gave us one of the best performances on stage this country has ever seen.  Nothing emphasizes that point better than the KORA and the four consecutive SAMA best selling Awards she worn.

When she was hospitalized thousands of South Africans and foreign nationals shared the pain with her family and flocked into the hospital to show support, including former President Nelson Mandela, former President Thabo Mbeki, Winnie Mamndela, to name but a few big names.

Her death was reported across the world, with the BBC calling her “… a very human hero….”  With Leslie Sedibe quoted saying “…Brenda occupied a special place in the minds and hearts of many people around the world. Indeed a hero has fallen.  Death has robbed this country, Africa, and the world one of the greatest talents….”

Through the ‘Blog of Death’, people (particularly across Africa) wrote their messages of condolences to the family and the country at large, clearly implicating that the whole country was in moaning. As if all that, was not enough.  This year, 5 years later, an exhibition entitled “Do you Know Where Brenda Fassie Is,” organized by Nonkululeko Mlangeni, is running from the 9th of May to the 7th of June to entrench and cement the high regard we hold of her.
Allow me to agitate the mud.  Brenda Fassie died from drug abuse, from cocaine she had consciously snorted on the morning of the 26th of the fourth month in 2004, and not some ‘Samaritan mission’.  Her whole life as a celebrity is filled with drugs and covered with controversy, and then more drugs and more controversy.

She had released only one album when she first hit her first line (around 1994).  In 1995, in a hotel room, she woke up next to the corpse of her lesbian lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of drug overdose.  Controversy was in every corner of her life, from bisexual to hitting photographers, and she was in and out of Drug Rehabilitation Clinics about 30 times.

Yet we still hold her high because all the bad things about her are overshadowed by her ‘beautiful’ voice and performances she gave us.  Hence, everything about her is written in a positive light, nicknamed the “…undisputed queen of the vocals…,” “The Madonna of the townships.”  The 30 visits to the rehab are justified by claims that no rehab clinic was competent enough to help her.  That rehab facility failed her. Really?  All these served nothing in the minds of; the fooled, but to market Brenda giving a positive image from her bad deeds.   Ask any marketer “bad publicity is better than no publicity.”  Americans sell their albums by portraying themselves as gangsters; she sold herself as an ‘I don’t care’, ‘free spirited’, do what I want’ drug addict. The first thing about rehabilitation is that; the subject must want and be willing to be rehabilitated, I say she never did.

Are we so short of heroes and heroines that an addict made No 17 on the top 100 Great South Africans list?  Is South Africa so idol less that we harnessed a wrong version of “Robin Hood,” and idolized the worse person in our mist?  A worse case of drug abuse she is.  Went broke, woke to a corpse, 30 visits to rehab, and died of drug abuse.  She is quoted saying she can’t remember a thing about working with Papa Wemba, she was so high.

And in our intoxicated lust we have misplaced our morals and mental capacity to separate right from wrong and followed the astray-road-crossing-sheep, because it did so confidently and looked like it knew what it where it was going.  We got overwhelmed by sympathy and gratitude that we not only misrepresented it, but we also misplaced it.  And in the process of allowing a very bad precedence to be set, we have allowed a threat to worm its way to becoming a norm in the music industry.  Kabelo, Mandoza, MXO, Lebo Mathosa, Mshoza, the list is endless, some came out and are now speaking against drug abuse, some are denying it.

Is she worth all of this, all the fuss?  NO!  To me she is a ‘Marian Jones’ for she stayed high all the time when she was in the studio and on stage.   When the American R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were in court, South African radio stations pledged solidarity with the victims and boycotted their music.  A South African junky musician dies and they hail, praise, promote, and commemorate on her name.
What message are we sending to the youth?  In a country considered the preferred drug destination, in a country so hard hit by drugs that even ARVs are being smoked to get high, in a country with miscellaneous drug options one just can’t keep up, and in a Province (Cape Town / Western Cape) with the youth so severely crippled by drugs it has become a norm for people to get killed by addicts for a cell phone. And you give me an exhibition! Mabrrr mabrrr my foot Mani!  It is an open secret that dagga (at least) consumption amongst young and aspiring musicians is high, and with the Americans putting a spark, why are we adding the fuel?

As far as I am concerned, only her family can celebrate her life, for only they knew her inner being.  What we know is her public being, a drug orientated life style.  A legend, heroine, icon, idol, she was not, a celebrity maybe, but not any of the earlier mentioned.  Death robbed us of great talent, no, drugs robbed us great talent (if there was any without drugs).  She was high on and off the studio.
In this country, we have tons of heroes and heroines, a significant share of legends, and a number of idols and icons, both in and out of the music industry.  Some have used drugs but have now repented and recant from them.  Some have gone even further by dedicating their time to fighting drug abuse in our society.  Brenda never did any of that unfortunately.  Let us then hold high and appreciate those who did.
So instead of live radio commemoration and playing her music in her remembrance, speak against drugs on that day on her behalf.  Instead of giving us an indoctrinating exhibition, host a campaign against drugs kwaLanga, around the province, on her behalf.  If for nothing else, then to salvage her name from the dumps and mud it continues to exist in, on her behalf.

Let not her soul rest in peace, let it roam around and amongst in an effort to set right her wrongs.  Let her memory achieve, from beyond the grave, what her physical being failed to achieve whilst alive.  Then, and only the, shall sizingombe izifuba in pride of her efforts to make the world a better place.

However, who am I to tell a morally lost nation what to do? I am but one guy who is thinking …in Ink.

Written By:  S. M.
Edited by:  N. D


1 Comment »

  1. Sino said,

    a part of me fully agrees with you however she is not the only one who had been living the world drugs but does not make it right i think one should look more into who provides these drugs to our artist….

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