A little more than a week after the passing of Pearl Shongwe, family, friends, and colleagues gathered together at the SABC head office in Auckland Park, Joburg, for a public memorial service to celebrate and reflect on the extraordinary life of Metro FM news anchor and “Daily Thetha” presenter.
According to the family statement, Pearl, 35, “passed away in her sleep” at her Midrand apartment on November 8.
“It is with great sadness that the Shongwe family announces the untimely passing of our beloved daughter Ntombifuthi Pearl Shongwe,” read the statement from the family.
Taking to the podium during the memorial service, on Wednesday, November 16, Nonhlanhla Shongwe said the family is trying to process Pearl’s untimely death.
“She was like a twin. I mothered her from the day she was born and I’d like to believe even on her last day on earth, she knew that umama, as she called me, has got my back,” Nonhlanhla said.
In honour of her younger sibling, Nonhlanhla recited a heart-warming poem titled, “She is Gone”.
“She is gone. You can shed tears that she is gone or you can smile because she lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she comes back. Or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left behind.
“Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her. Or you can be full of the love that she shared with you.
She said: “You can turn your back on tomorrow and leave yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her and only that she’s gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
“You can cry and close your mind. Be empty and turn your back or you can do what she wants, smile, open your eyes, love, and go on,” Nonhlanhla said.
Metro FM presenter Marian Nyako-Lartey also took the opportunity to reflect on her bestie’s colourful life and their last conversation.
Nyako-Lartey said: “I am not ready to stand here, to be honest with you but it would be an injustice to my friend if I didn’t. I was processing in my mind. How do you speak about Pearl?”
“Pearl wanted us to travel in December. She wanted us to just enjoy life together. She had been through a lot and just wanted to break free.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do the trip together. She might not be able to stamp her passport. But I will still go next month in honour of her.”
The seasoned broadcaster also thanked the Shongwe family for the gift that Pearl was to her and the world.
“Thank you for allowing Pearl to soar as much as she soared, allowing her to not just love you as a family, but to love everybody.
“Whether she met the person, through engagements on social media, which she loved, she loved getting feedback from people who appreciated what she did.
“In many of our lengthy conversations, she’d speak about her dreams and aspirations … she also spoke about what people meant to her.
“Pearl encourages people. She didn’t have to know you to encourage you. She didn’t have to know you to love you, whenever she can and to her best, she gave all of herself.
Nyako-Lartey spoke about Pearl’s passion for radio.
“This microphone I’m holding right now, it’s so difficult holding it because it’s what is connected together.
“This wasn’t just a job for Pearl, it was love. It was a way of communicating her numerous love languages. It was a way to touch people that she knew she couldn’t touch and that she had this microphone, this medium, the broadcast medium.
“What I would like to leave with you is, be love. It’s what Pearl stood for; love, honesty, integrity and consistency …You could never fault her work. It was excellent.
“When Pearl spoke, she didn’t just speak. She was extremely well-read. So, she spoke with intent. She spoke with love. She spoke either to make a difference in your life or to encourage you.
She said: “The one thing I will miss every day is encouragement. Going forward, holding this microphone, in honour of her, the best I can do, is never have an off day on the mic. Respect what you’ve been given. Live your life. Do what you need to do … like it is your last.
“As much as we can be selfish and say, why Pearl? She did it all. Yes. She had dreams she still wanted to achieve. So it’s not goodbye and as we still try and process … I just hope in everything I do, I will continue to make her proud, as a friend, and as a colleague. Thank you.”
In his moving speech, veteran broadcaster Wilson B Nkosi hailed Pearl as more than a talented radio personality but an individual with a big heart.
“I would like to thank the people that brought Pearl to Metro FM, Sibongile Mtshali and the team,” said Nkosi.
“I’m sure in your minds what you heard was a God-given, a God-blessed, a God-inspired broadcasting talent. But we saw more than that, we saw a friend in Pearl. And so thank you for bringing her forth.
“Pearl and I spoke very extensively about our, individual wishes, plan, aspirations, goals, hopes and big dreams. She had big dreams and I’m hoping that in the fullness of time, it will think would make sense.”
Bidding farewell to his pal, Nkosi said: “So Ntombifuthi Shongwe here’s a deal, just like Edward Makhosonke Zondi before you, just like Grant William Shakoane before you, just like Bob Kgomotso Mabena before you, just like Xolani Gwala before you, just like Cyril Bongani Mchunu before you and just like Solly Mokoetle, you Pearl Shongwe will also keep your place in my heart for the remainder of the allocated days on earth. I give you my word.
“You gave me more than you received. Ngiyabonga sisi. May God accept you the same way you accepted us during your stay on earth. May God overlook your possible shortcomings. Good night MaShongwe,” he said.
At the time of her death, Pearl was a newsreader and presenter on the popular radio and television shows “The Touchdown” show on Metro FM and SABC 1’s “Daily Thetha”.
Her radio career was launched in 2010 when she worked for the youth radio station YFM as an entertainment reporter, alongside Moeti “Moflava” Tsiki.
The family confirmed that her funeral will be held at home in Diepkloof ext 5 on Saturday, November 19, at 6.30am, before proceeding to the Diepkloof Comprehensive Welfare Centre, where the full service will be held from 8am.
She will then be laid to rest at the Nasrec Memorial Park.
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