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Bee sting robs The Namibian of a valued colleague

Werner Menges

A bee sting claimed the life of an editorial staff member of The Namibian, Kobus Oosthuizen, late last week.

The mood in the newspaper's editorial offices was markedly more subdued and pensive than usual on Friday, as word sank in that Kobus had died suddenly after work on Thursday.

On his desk, a candle was lit, placed by newsroom colleague Lindsay Dentlinger.

The news once again reminded his colleagues of the transient and fleeting nature of life and the suddenness with which death could knock at anyone's door.

Kobus was stung by a bee at a plot in the Brakwater area where he was living.

He suffered a severe allergic reaction, and passed away while neighbours were rushing him to hospital in Windhoek.

He had turned 36 in February this year.

Kobus had been responsible for The Namibian's weekly motoring supplement, Top Revs, for most of the past year.

In that time he soon proved that he had a gift for offbeat writing and a talent for bringing a fresh approach to writing about topics that could easily become jaded and repetitive.

As a tribute to Kobus The Namibian will not publish Top Revs this week.

Advertisements for the supplement will be incorporated into the main paper instead, Editor Gwen Lister indicated on Friday.

"We all knew Kobus as a pleasant and likeable person who would always help out when needed," she remarked in an e-mail message in which she broke the news of his death to staff members.

"We will all miss him around the office."

Kobus was, for the most part, a quiet presence in the office, but he had a ready wit and a sharp sense of humour - two qualities that go a long way in preparing any newspaperman for the demands of his job.

A friend and colleague of his, Dominic von Stoesser, recalled on Friday that Kobus was the man who had issued him with a traffic violation ticket because Dominic rode his bicycle to work, making everyone else that drove to work in a car look bad.

Conrad Angula, who shared an office with Kobus, noted that he would never forget Kobus's gift of turning a crisis moment into a joke.

"Most importantly, Kobus was always willing to lend a helping hand and he was never too busy to attend to another person's problem."

Office-mate, desktop publishing specialist Featring Mbedeka, remembered that same quality, and remarked: "I will always look to my right and remember the thumbs-ups we used to give each other."

Another colleague, Tangeni Amupadhi, wrote: "From a distance he seemed unapproachable and aloof. But say a word to him and he opens up like a budding flower welcoming sunshine."

He expressed a general sentiment among The Namibian's staff: "So long, my bra."

Kobus hailed from South Africa, where he went to school in Pretoria before studying electronic engineering at the Pretoria Technikon.

He started his newspaper career in Cape Town - as he himself put it, he had "scratched open a little space in the English journalism in Cape Town" - where he worked as a sub-editor at the Cape Times and also freelanced for magazines and the Cape Argus for six years.

After moving to Namibia around 2000 he first worked at Republikein, where his responsibilities included page layout, before resuming a freelance career and then joining The Namibian.

While at Republikein he was cited for a Sanlam Community Media Award for column writing; while at The Namibian he won a first prize for economic reporting at this year's Namibia Media Awards a month ago.

Robin Tyson, Chairperson of Misa-Namibia, which is the organiser of the Media Awards, noted over the weekend that Kobus "brought an abundance of energy and creativity to his craft, and will be remembered for the professionalism as well as sense of fun he brought to the regular motoring columns".

One of his friends and former colleagues from Republikein days, Ronelle Rademeyer, recalled him as "one of he most talented people in my circle of friends".

"He was not just a good journalist and writer, but he also painted, played the guitar and sang beautifully. At the same time he was handy: he could do carpentry, welding - all such practical man-things."

He was strongly individualistic; "sometimes whimsical, sometimes very depressed", she remembered.

"But he also had a very light side to his personality. He loved to play; he loved children."

What few of his colleagues may have known is that Kobus also wrote poetry, or as he put it on the LitNet literary website where some of his work was posted, "scribbled little verses when life gets deeply beautiful or heartbreaking".

In one of his poems there, both his sensitivity and sense of humour are on display.

It is a poem that starts with the lines, when translated from the Afrikaans: "I'm looking for an audience of one for my sweet melancholy."

It ends on a similarly bittersweet, but also delicately humoured, note: "Melancholy ... a wondrously sweet thing in which everything lies and melts in my soul like Smarties on a dashboard."

Kobus would not have known it, but he passed away on the same day as one of the greatest poets in Afrikaans, Sheila Cussons, who died in Cape Town on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

In one of her poems, as translated, she had written:

"You're going on a journey, old man, at last on the way to Gloria:
one suitcase with owner inside."


  • Click here to read Kobus Oosthuizen's poetry on PoësieNet

    The Namibian: Monday, November 29, 2004




    LitNet: 14 December 2004

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    boontoe


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