Black Twitter Kills Patrick Shai – A Country Without Compassion

I must admit that I was shocked to hear of the untimely death of  South African actor Patrick Shai, 66, on Saturday the 22nd of January by his own hand.

I was shocked because I had just been discussing ntate Shai with my mom recently; reminiscing about the old days when everyone with a TV in Soweto during the mid to late 80’s would crouch in front of it -all of us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting in anticipation to watch another instalment of Bophelo Ke semphego. Young and old would be engrossed with Patricks Shai’s humorous and philandering character Nkusheng’s latest antics as he navigated life with first wife Matiti, side-piece Senthawulele, sugar mommy Sam, his mother, family and in-laws. 

We looked forward to it.

We enjoyed this show a lot as kids because we thought Nkusheng was extremely funny, and more especially his bad-tempered mother who would be shouting, beating and chasing her children all over town.  We were largely oblivious to it’s serious content around fidelity, consent, domestic and gender based violence. 

He was a brilliant actor.

I had watched a video in which Shai was challenging singer and rapper Cassper Nyovest to the celebrity boxing ring to raise awareness against GBV recently.

Towards the end of the video he said he wanted to box Cassper before he dies; so that on his tombstone it will be written, that he had defeated him.

But instead of it leading to this “celebrity fight”- Shai was attacked by South Africans on twitter for saying “son of a bitch” at the end of his video invitation. Something which did not sit well with Cassper fans who said Shai was too grown to be using expletives which had hurt Casper and his family especially his mother.

Shai promptly issued a statement apologising from the bottom of his heart for the degrading words he used towards the end of the video. I shared his apology video with my mom, who felt that his apology was sincere. We ended our conversation on a light note laughing at how social media can bring out the worst in people. I thought it would blow over.

I could not have imagined that this incident would be the rope which broke Patrick Shai’s neck. Who could have?

He hanged himself.

Mzansi. Folks. People. This is what it’s like to live in an unforgiving world.

Where people are deemed too toxic and cut-off with immediate effect and without question by people who are also guilty of the same offence if not greater.  

There is no mercy. No forgiveness. Just cruelty. Hatred and loneliness.

And don’t think that just because things are going well for you now, that Twitter or Social Media loves you atm that it’s always going to stay that way. 

The people whose lives were destroyed by Twitter are as long as the Nile river. The list includes Presidents, Nobel laureates,  Hollywood- A- listers, Celebs, Billionaires and people you’ll never hear about who were also probably innocent too.

Your next “innocent”, “benign” tweet might cause you to trend in ways that will make you wish the ground would open up and bury you. Just like it did Patrick Shai.

At least he had lived an illustrious life till he had grey hairs. 

Which part of “no one is perfect in this world” is confusing? Are you perfect?

Have you ever used bad language or hurt someone with your words. Do you deserve to die for those mistakes?

There is a difference between holding someone accountable and destroying someone’s life.  

Yes, Patrick Shai made his choice at the end.

But I’m almost certain it’s only because he thought death was the only option left open to him.

This is the message that the now late Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk tried to demonstrate. 

Yes it is true that there can be no peace without justice, but there can also be no peace without forgiveness. No future.

Where will you live? Nizohlalaphi?

But I guess South Africans who attacked Patrick have chosen a side: 

“any eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth” 

You killed the last remaining spark of hope in Patrick Shai’s life. An incredible actor, the legend of our childhood memories forever.  His legacy will live on in our hearts and minds – cemented. 

He was a brave and courageous man who acknowledged his faults when he was wrong and apologised from the bottom of his heart.  It’s just so sad that he couldn’t forgive himself.

May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Forgive and you too shall be forgiven.

“Love is profoundly political. Our deepest revolution will come when we understand this truth.” —– bell hooks, Salvation: Black People and Love.


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