Sad farewell to Carlos

Carlos Magaia, on Julie Kidds birthday last year.

Julie Kidd, Verbatim Bookstore, Stellenbosch

Thursday January 11, was Carlos Magaia’s birthday. He would have turned 42.

We had a present wrapped up and waiting for him, and plans to present him with a cake to share with his friends.

Carlos was stabbed to death on Monday January 8, at around 9pm, in an argument over four eggs.

I first met Carlos about eight years ago, when he walked past me outside my bookshop, and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

He looked so defeated, and was already walking away when I replied that I would love him to help in the book shop’s garden, and to water the plants.

The next morning he was waiting for me, and so our journey began.

Carlos was humble and shy, always polite and well turned out.

It took time, but after a few months my neighbours began to notice this tall young man with a noticeable limp, who was prepared to do anything, and he became a sought-after member of the Dorp Street community.

Suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of Carlos.

People stopped by to greet him.

The security guards stopped by to chat, and an elderly woman who is fluent in Zulu often called in to greet him and have a discussion in his second language.

Our immediate neighbour, who is, among other things, a well-known South African entrepreneur and successful author, took him under his wing.

He gave Carlos a lot of his time, bags full of wonderful clothes and a great deal of dignity and pride.

Last week he gave him a permanent position of two full days a week, due to start this week, the day after he was murdered.

He came to know our shop well, and when Erna Ridge joined Verbatim Bookstore as a partner almost two years ago, we gave Carlos more responsibilities.

He was also extensively employed by staff and family members to assist with painting and garden work over weekends.

None of us were successful in getting Carlos to talk much about his past.

He had a troubled background, and apart from being physically disabled, did not enjoy good health.

But he was respected, loved and a very necessary part of our lives.

People around us are distressed and sad, and we will all miss him a great deal.

On Wednesday, after a discussion with his friend Moses and the elders from his community, a few of us went to the prayer meeting held outside his house in Kayamandi.

I was staggered at the tiny, humble little room he called home.

How he emerged from there looking so smart and clean every day defies belief.

And he walked a great distance there and back to his places of work.

But he was a treasured member of the community in which he lived.

It was interesting to talk to the people who lived near him, and to find out that he was much loved by the children of the area.

He used to bring them little treats back from work.

I met Rebecca, who used to cook for him, on condition that he return all her plates.

And I was assured by many that despite my never hearing him, he used to laugh out loud. A lot.

There must have been at least 40 plastic chairs placed out – up and down the little alleys, and around all the corners of his house.

There were men, women and small children.

There were dogs and puppies under our chairs. There were no refreshments or organised piped music.

No umbrellas or fans. Just people who cared, were shocked and wanted to be there for him.

The prayer meeting was led by two women who sang praise with heavenly voices and the rest of us answered in chorus.

It was beautiful, and I felt so proud to have been part of it.

We will all miss his shy smile, positive attitude, humility and friendliness.

Rest well, Carlos Magaia, ukuphumula ngokuthula umngani wami.