Tribute to the Late Lesego Motsepe: A bright star has been dimmed

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27 Jan 2014

The day of Lesego Motsepe’s passing is one of those days one never wished to come. The news of the passing of Lesego has rocked the South African creative and cultural industries and we are still in shock. Whilst mourning the passing of a legendary poet, singer, storyteller and producer, we are also celebrating a life well lived. A life that touched millions in a profound way!

Lesego was one of a kind. From humbling beginnings 39 years ago, and her family background notwithstanding, she never allowed anyone and anything to stand in her way to reach for a dream. What an amazing human being who was driven, courageous and resilient! She was a special one, indeed. Always cheerful, full of life and raring to achieve the extraordinary, Lesego inspired not only those who worked with her but millions around our country and beyond through her humility, courage, tenacity and not to mention her dazzling artistic skills.

What a priviledge that I had an opportunity to work with her. When I assumed duty as the Minister of Arts and Culture, I had to appoint a team that will accelerate transformation in the film and television industry. I could not but appoint Lesego to form part of the Task Team on Local Content that was to drive this process. Not only her love and passion for the creative and cultural industries but also her leadership qualities came through. She made valuable contribution in the work of the Task Team and the strides we have made in building our television and film industry is due in no small measure to her role and active participation. As the Department of Arts and Culture, we are eternally indebted to her for the role she played and will always cherish the moments we shared with her.

We are also grateful to the Motsepe family for sharing Lesego with us. She was an extra-ordinary talent that always reinvented itself. A gutsy and cheerful human being, Lesego was multi-talented in more ways than one. She was an actor with amazing skills. She was a captivating poet. She was a mind-boggling storyteller. She was a passionate motivator and an innovative content producer.

Reading about and listening to some of the commentaries about the passing of Lesego was heart-wrenching. I could not believe what I was hearing and reading. This is cruel and serves to diminish Lesego’s role in the creative and cultural industries. It further stigmatises Lesego herself and others who are infected and affected by HIV. How unfortunate as Lesego was at the forefront of gallant efforts to destigmatise the virus and provide hope and practical support to everyone infected and affected by this scourge.

Lesego was a shining star, both in front of the camera and away from the camera. She proved herself through her incredible skills, hard work and creativity. It is therefore unfair to her memory that a narrative that some amongst us would want to write about Lesego aims to, consciously or unconsciously, erase the great legacy that she has left. Let us ensure that the full story about Lesego is not only told but is also preserved for future generations.
Whilst Lesego’s decision is to be respected, people need to be urged to undergo tests and if they test positive, we have to encourage them to and they must take treatment as it gives them a fighting chance.

Lesego’s health condition notwithstanding, she gave many people hope and the courage to openly speak about how the scourge affected them. This is audacious of her and she must be saluted and not demonised. We should be grateful for her tenacity, courage and determination.

As a tribute to Lesego, efforts to establish a creative and cultural industries federation that unites and serves the best interests of artists, musicians, dancers and everyone else in the sector will be accelerated and completed within the coming two months. This federation will ensure that the sector speaks in one voice and it also facilitates training and capacity building for all involved. All these efforts will be undertaken concurrently with the establishment of a national skills academy for the creative and cultural industries.

Plans are also afoot to vigorously implement our department’s commitment to establish a community arts centre in every ward across our country.

On behalf of the Department of Arts and Culture and myself, I convey our heartfelt condolences to the Motsepe family and the South African creative and cultural industries and all those who were inspired by her works. May your soul rest in peace, Lesego! Robala ka kagiso, Kgabo!

Paul Mashatile is the Minister of Arts and Culture and the Chairperson of ANC in Gauteng