Tribute to my father


This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life, to talk about my father, my hero, my role model and the man I have sought to model myself since I was 6 years old. But I could not think or talk about my father without thinking or paying tribute to my mother because they were partners for life!!! .

I am reminded of the famous words of the renowned philosopher, Voltaire who said, “ to the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe only the truth.  In life, my father compelled respect and I’m sure that in death he would insist on nothing less than the truth about his life, his successes and failures. The truth is that although my father was a remarkable man with great gifts, talents and attributes,he would not have accomplished half the things he did in his life if he had not met or married his beloved “ Lovey”, my loving, peaceful and god-fearing mother. His life would have taken a different turn, that is why I think it is important to pay special tribute to my mother for her role in my father’s life.

In order to understand the quiet yet effective role that my mother played in influencing this giant of a man, you need to get to know her:

What kind of a woman is she, what is her character?
When I think of my mother what comes to mind is:
The most gentle soul, with the most tiger-like spirit;
the kindest heart, with the fiercest determination;
the most compassionate nature with the strongest moral compass;
The warmest, sweetest personality, with an unflinching dedication to honesty;
the most loving, peaceful temperament with the sharpest sense of conscience;
the most beautiful smile and laughter, with a resolve to accept only absolute integrity; and
the most noble and calm presence, with the tenacious fervour for practical Christian action (Hack & Dunfey: 2007)

Talking about my Father –to whom I owe everything I am

When I consider my experiences and memories of my father, innumerable   memorable events come to mind;  how do I condense over 40 years of love into a few words. How do I do justice  to the life of a man who was my coach, mentor, teacher, critic, friend and confidante in a few minutes? How do I pay tribute to such man, who not only gave me life, but a good education, sound values, firm principles, a proud identity and formula for success in life whilst  overcoming my own grief? How do I represent my own memories of this family man as only one of his many children, as my father was the father to so many other children beyond Linda, Nomangesi, JB, the grand children and his great grand child, his beloved Oliver? How do I capture the image of one who defined love, to his wife, his children, his colleagues, his family (Amasukwini), his community and country?

To judge someone’s contribution at the end of his life, the late President Theodore Roosevelt, in his famous “ The man in the arena “ speech in France in 1910 said,

 “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


As Rev Belu said on Wednesday, Mzandile Mali was no saint, he was a mortal sinner like me, but as Roosevelt said, “ He strived to do good deeds; he strived valiantly and he recognised that there is no effort without error and shortcomings.  I am convinced that he is now at peace because he has experience what Roosevelt describes as the triumph of high achievement.

What has he achieved?

When I saw my father in his coffin, he was at peace, he was at peace because:

  • He stayed true to his beloved Lovey. He loved her unconditionally until the end – and fulfilled the commitment (side sahlulwe kukufa!);
  • He raised, guided  and educated  his children, they are now all adults (usifundise ukuthandana, ukunyamezelana, ukucingelana, nokuxhasana- nalomsebenzi sibambisene ngawo olohlobo)  ;
  • He has moulded this Mali/Dilimeni family (Amasukwini) into a unit; our family is united; progressive and growing under his and Uncle Ray’s leadership. His success in both spreading the message of unity and in re-building the family is quite remarkable, but his ability to hold together, for so many years, such a disparate group of strong-willed, opinionated individuals was based on an authority that stemmed from the sheer integrity and passion of the man.
  • He has contributed to the improvement of the education system of Black children through his involvement in the rebuilding and renovation of schools; his participation in school governance; dispute resolution efforts during the crisis in education ( he helped raise R200 000 from R10 contributions from families, raised R4m from PE companies, and help raise R40m from the Urban Foundation, this helped to build a remarkable 1000 classrooms throughtout the Easter Cape!!!);
  • He has formed and help form some of the most powerful music, sports, arts and cultural formations in South Africa which include, the Fort Beaufort Cricket Club, Orientals Rugby Football Club, Matthews Singers Choir, IDYF.
  • He contributed to the development of his community through his involvement in community projects, hiding of political activists, supporting political prisoners, his selflessness in support of community building initiatives (hiding Jack, Odolo, Mangcotywa, Xhego, Ndzothoyi and others in this very church; and
  • Finally, his return like the prodigal son to his beloved Holy Spirit Church in his last few months to be confirmed as a member of the Bernard Mizeki Men’s Guild (Udodana!!) ( unyana wolahleko ubuye ngoMzuzu wokugqibela) Waxela nebhada emnqamlezweni –Xa athi u Yesu, namhlanje ndiyakuba nawe eparadesi kabawo.

These are his achievements, this is his life scoreboard, he was as Roosevelt would argue, a man who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

How was Nzebo in action?

  • My dad displayed enduring patience;  steadfastness; compassion;  calmness;   unassuming authority;  confidence;  moral correctness;  extra-ordinary energy and ability;  coupled with a total dedication to his family and the broader “Amasukwini” Clan.
  • What a man, Nzebo was, a steadfast force with such vitality, creativity, courage, clarity, honesty and constancy.  These qualities made him irresistible, inspirational and deeply beloved to us.  How blessed we were to know and grow up under his guidance and loving hand.
  • My father always showed immense trust, confidence and faith in us as his children, this contributed to our individual development as we sought to live up to his expectations.
  • He always demonstrated lucid thinking;  infinite tact and astuteness, as well as his incisive and precise humanitarian approaches to seemingly intractable family, religious,social, educational and parental problems.
  • Any one of the members of the Mali family talk of my father as if this was their father alone;  their uncle alone, tatomncinci, tatomkhulu, malume alone.  This is because he touched each person profoundly and deeply personally. This is because he had the profound gift of listening carefully to each and all, without judging, without frowning on status or wealth.  This quality was the converse of the great communicator that he was, a man who impregnated profound lessons that endeared him to his friends, colleagues, children and family.
  • The care and caring boundless enough to enable him to find time and solutions to everyone’s problems, however big or small, was the hallmark of his character because his love for his family, colleagues, team mates, friends and children was absolutely inexhaustible.
  • We are privileged to have shared our lives with this man, and to have learnt from him the basic teachings that all of us must remain committed to the humble service of the people of our communities, family and country. We shall draw inspiration from his teachings, his commitment and his dedication in the service of his family and community.
  • My father always believed in and practised ubuntu – he recognised, at all times – the humanity equality and the value of each person.  He accepted their humanity without condition.  He trusted and respected each person for who they were, not for what they have done or not done. That is why my father would talk and relate to in the same way to kings and commoners; the wealthy and poor; relatives and strangers; the young and the old; business executives and peasants and supporter and critic.
  • My dad’s style was inclusive of people and ideas.  He was always prepared to listen, to encourage debate and interrogation of all views, proposals and ideas, and to provide guidance towards a collective standpoint.
  • He taught and challenged us as his children, the broader family and those privileged to have worked or played sport with him.  He was a master of language, expressing himself with precision and clarity, requiring others to reflect and often explain in their choice of words. My father was indeed the glue that held or bound us together as a family through some of the most difficult times.
  • In the words of John Gardner, “ The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shodinness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water”. My father believed in this view from Gardner, he was impatient with inefficiency, dereliction of duty and laziness, and spared no-one who let the team, family or colleagues down.
  • My father taught the value of wealth – he argued that wealth is when you have more assets than liabilities.  To him in life your assets were all the people who loved or cared about you because of the positive difference you made in their lives – be they colleagues, friends, loved ones or family members.  Your liabilities were all the people you hurt, disappointed and to whom you had a negative effect.  Wealth then to him is if in life you end up always having more assets than liabilities – then you are wealthy.
  • I am therefore certain that none among you would contest the statement then that Mzwandile Nzebo Wellington Mali died a very wealthy man.  He had a lot of assets and played a huge role in the lives of hundreds of people throughout his life.  If you measure his wealth on the basis of material things – then my father was poor – but if you measure his life on the basis of real assets – then my father was one of the wealthiest men of his generation. My father did not leave a will, as he had no material riches to bequeath, but he left us a rich legacy of sacrifice, service, humility, contribution, leadership, honesty, integrity, commitment, discipline, decisiviness, courage, trustworthiness, reliability and a remarkable reputation for standing up for his beliefs, principles, values and the truth regardless of personal consequences.


Mzwandile Mali has not died because the ideals for which he lived for and dedicated his life to can never die …. Those of us who loved and believed him – declare for all to hear – “while we live Mzwandile Mali will never die” – for it’s through us that his ideals will be carried forward.  We, more than most, carry a very special obligation not only to share but importantly to strive consistently to remain true to and emulate his proud memory.

 In recognition of his contribution to the Mali/Dilimeni family, his love for education, his investment in the youth and to preserve his legacy, we as a family have decided to rename our current Mali Educational Bursary to the Mzwandile Mali Education Bursary. This bursary is aimed at ensuring that all children from the broader Mali/Dilimeni family have access to educational opportunities up to Matric.

While his passing may have robbed us of his physical presence, his lasting influence and teachings remain –we must at all times cultivate and maintain in our family, for generations to come, a culture of service and sacrifice.

Tata, it is said that, “ The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”, you were the light that shone in our darkness as a family, community and country. Uyakuhlala usisibane esingacimiyo, ubumhlophe ngebala, ulibala eligqamileyo elikhanyisayo!!!

Tata usifundisile wasipha ikamva, usiqeqeshile, usifundise imbeko nomonde, wasibonisa ukubaluleka kokuthandana njengabantwana bakho, usenze sazingca ngobuSukwini, ubengumzekelo wenkokheli elithandazwe hayi ethandisisu, usifundise ukuthanda abafazi bethu, abantwana bethu nobukhwe bethu ngendlela ubusenza ngayo wena; usifundise ukwazi uthixo, sikhulele ecaweni, icekwa lishiyeke nathi; usifundise ukubaluleka kwe family yakwa Mali/Dilimeni neyakwa Summerton; usibonisile ukubaluleka kwe mfundo. Umsebenzi uwugqibile, ugqatso ulufezile, thina usigqibile, asinakukhala ngawe Lawu!!!

Hamba kakuhle Lawu, uxelele U Aaron, uKhobo, Umalawu, Kaizer, uNdzoyi, uNkamela, uMamqadi, no Thandiwe nawonke amanye amaSukwini  ukuba umsebenzi wakho uwugqibile;

  • Kunamhlanje nje ahlangene ayimbumba Amalawu, amanyene Amasukwini;
  • Ayangcwabana, ayaxhasana, ayazana, ayathandana amaLawu;
  • Isizukulwana esishiyekile siyazingca ngobusukwini, ulutsha lwethu olifundisileyo, lizakuhamba ekhondweni lakho elihle;
  • AmaLawu ayawalandela amasiko, ayazazi izithethe owafundise zona kwintlanganiso zethu;
  • URemember u tatomkhulu wethu uliphethe ikhaya, uyaziqeqesha iinkokheli ezilandelayo, bakhona ooXolisa, oo Sis Berea, ooBoy, oo Banzi, Dumani, oo JB, oo Linda, oo Lhasa, oo Mzamo, no Makhwenkwe;
  • Xasidibene ngo September nge Heritage Day eBirha kwatatomkhulu  u Ray no Aunt Peggy, sizakukhumbula, iincoko zakho, ubuqhuza bakho, intsini yakho, ubuciko bakho, iingcebiso zakho, amava akho, iimfundiso zakho; uthando lwakho, intembeko yakho, ukunyaniseka kwakho,  nolwazi lwakho.

Umsebenzi wakho  ugqityiwe!!!  Hamba kakuhle Lawu, Chwama, Mavata, Chopetyeni, Sandlalangca –Lawu lentaba!!!! Sohlala sikuthanda, siyazingca ngawe, sibulela uThixo ngakwenzileyo ukusiboleka umntu ofana nawe!!!!