BUSINESS LIVE / 23 OCTOBER 2018 - 17:33 / PHAKAMISA NDZAMELA
Radebe had the ability to sneak into exclusive meetings where workers would plot how to claim BEE shares and dividends they felt were due to them but not delivered by employers
A big tree in the forest of financial journalism has fallen. A great journalist who spent time recording black economic empowerment (BEE) stories is no more. Sibonelo Radebe, a grandson of Mthimkhulu (Big Tree) of the AmaHlubi nation has dropped his sharp pen permanently. The hand that contributed to the writing of the most accurate and informative black business stories in SA moves no more.
Radebe was a wordsmith extraordinaire. Many of those who worked with him at the now defunct Johnnic/Avusa building in Biermann Avenue, Rosebank attest that his copy needed no surgery at the subeditors desk. In fact, if all the writers at Business Day and Financial Mail were as succinct and delightful to the reader as Radebe was, the subeditors desk risked being rendered irrelevant.
He also did not have a deficit of naughtiness in his youthfulness. Stories are plenty of how he and a colleague (now a family man and adviser to JSE-listed companies) would disappear with the company Toyota Tazz to "go on a story" in some town, only to resurface a week later.
Radebe's passion for the BEE story was not confined to the main beneficiaries in big-collar shirts and German wagons. He had an interest in the story of ordinary blue-collar workers who fought for their share in BEE. He had the ability to sneak into exclusive meetings where workers would plot how to claim BEE shares and dividends they felt were due to them but not delivered by employers.
Radebe had a thick skin and didn't mind being criticised. He could also be brutal. "Makhanya, you know that was a bulls**t story, right", he would argue in a moment of imbibement, addressing Mondli Makhanya, the lowly newspaperman who edits the City Press.
Guzzling at Radebe's table meant intellectual debate. You always left having learnt something. He would often deploy Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and The Last Man to mock the Marxists who still believed communism was the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and final form of government.
Radebe did not simply talk by deploying copious amounts of ink on paper. He was a great doer. Tired of endless debates around the need for a "black-owned bank" that understood the financial demands of black people, Radebe championed efforts to start a money lending laboratory in the form of a co-operative bank known as KCB, working hard trying to raise the deposits needed to register formally with the SA Reserve Bank.
Radebe bows out having bequeathed great content to SA's economic and commercial history. Go well, you literary artisan.
• Ndzamela is a protege of Radebe.