Just weeks ago, on 18 April, 2021, Colin ‘Jiggs’ Smuts regaled us with stories about his fascinating life in a talk titled ‘Unsung and Unbung’. He was in full form and as usual everyone enjoyed his sharp wit and quick humour. Sadly, last week Themba messaged me to say that his dad had passed away.
It has taken me a while to sit and write about Colin, as there has been so much to process.
Colin and I met when we were members of ANFASA (the Academic and Non Fiction Association of South Africa) and we quickly became very good friends. As he was based in Johannesburg and I in Cape Town, this was a friendship from afar, but we always gravitated towards each other at the ANFASA AGM’s and my family and I so enjoyed his visits to Cape Town. Colin was someone who knew how to light up a room for everyone and soon had us all in peals of laughter, listening to his humorous stories and responding to his witty remarks. Colin was also a very accomplished writer, journalist and anti-Apartheid political activist who was never afraid of speaking the truth to power. Most importantly, he was a doting father.
At his funeral last week, though I attended on-line, one could feel the deep sense of loss experienced by the many people who loved Colin as very moving tributes came in from friends, his stepdaughter Rona and son Themba.
Colin’s last visit to Cape Town was in March this year when he attended a memorial for his first wife Dolphine and he drove through to have lunch with us. It was a very informal affair, sitting in the kitchen as my son has taken over my dining room table as his workplace since COVID. However, Colin and I had a real heart to heart chat and while I was busying myself in the kitchen, at one stage he remarked: “Do you know how happy it is making me just to sit here and watch you”. I did not realize that he had been diagnosed with emphysema and that he knew that his time was limited. Maybe this is what he was trying to tell me.
When Colin left he hugged my daughter and I goodbye at the gate and we watched him drive off, little knowing that this would be his last visit to us in Cape Town.
Thank you, dear Colin, for your friendship over the years; for the humorous stories, valued insights and perspectives. You were a very treasured friend and very much loved by my family and friends. My condolences to Themba and Rona. Your loss is a great one and may time heal your pain. What I will miss most about Colin is the laughter.