The Daily Voice ran a front page about the death of popular local opera singer, James Bhemgee, headlined “James died a poor man”.
In the article, Pastor Alfonso Schilder appealed for assistance in giving his brother a decent burial.
It was not the news anyone wanted to read. It was not the story we wanted to publish.
But it was the unfortunate reality for the struggling and ailing Cape Flats star, and his family.
Some social media users called the headline “disrespectful”.
Presumably, they preferred to read more tributes to the late 57-year-old tenor and minstrels mentor.
They wanted the “Singing Dustman” to be remembered for his extraordinary God-given talent and his achievements as a performer, which earned him stardom on SA’s Got Talent.
This, by the way, the Daily Voice had covered on Wednesday, upon breaking the news of his death, and we shared heartfelt tributes from fellow performers in the entertainment industry.
We could have continued to honour his life all week long.
However, it was when the Daily Voice journalist visited the family of the late singer, that the news took an unexpected turn.
We were reminded of a different side to the tragic story.
Most media had reported on the life and death of the artist - but not the person.
Speaking to his brother and daughter, we heard about James’ struggles: his financial hardship, being unemployed, and his health issues.
He was described as a humble and generous soul who shared his gift with everyone.
But he also had his bad habits.
And in the end, he died penniless.
This is the story people simply do not want to know.
They want to hear the amazing voice and see the glittering costumes on stage.
They don’t want to see what happens when the spotlight dims and the curtain comes down.
They don’t want to know how our stars suffer in an industry that offers little to no support - in their time of need.
Should the Daily Voice have ignored James’ living circumstances?
Should we not have published the family’s appeal for help?
Was it a “disrespectful” thing to have done?
Perhaps if the Daily Voice had been “disrespectful” and reported on James’ plight earlier, he might have received much-needed support sooner.
There was something else that Pastor Alfonso said, which also rang true.
“[James] could have been far economically, if he saw the importance of the business side to his gift and that’s the sad part of my brother’s legacy, he poured himself out entertaining people, but he died poor.”
This has been the downfall of not just his own brother, but other performers like him, and indeed South Africans at large.
James was blessed with astonishing talent, but lacked the necessary skills to monetise it and turn it into a sustainable livelihood.
In broad conversations about the high rate of unemployment in this country and foreigners “taking local jobs”, it is becoming increasingly clear that the answer to our economic problems is small business development.
Government keeps talking about investment and job creation, when there is too little focus on equipping and supporting our entrepreneurs.
We don’t need more cashiers and call centre agents.
We need more start-up companies, which in turn will create the jobs.
Sadly, most mense don’t fully grasp what it means and what it takes to run a business.
Government needs to address this skills deficit, starting at school and tertiary education level; and then provide opportunities and access for people to ply their trades.