Nat Nakasa ‘challenged the apartheid system through the pen’

2014-09-13 16:23

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The reburial of anti-apartheid journalist Nat Nakasa closed a tragic chapter of South Africa’s history, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has said.

“The act of reburial solidifies that which is a part of our heritage,” Mthethwa said today, speaking at the memorial service in Durban’s City Hall.

He said Nakasa had challenged the apartheid system through the pen.

“Much as he was not politically affiliated, an individual like Nat Nakasa was unavoidably a conduit for what the National Liberation Movement fought for.”

Hundreds attended the memorial service, including KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, SA National Editors’ Forum executive director Mathatha Tsedu, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, numerous well-known local personalities and Nakasa’s family.

Nakasa’s last remaining sibling, who last saw Nakasa when she was 13?years old, sat between Mchunu and Mthethwa.

Nakasa worked for publications including Drum magazine, the Rand Daily Mail and Ilanga newspapers.

He was forced to leave South Africa on an exit visa when the apartheid government refused to grant him a passport after he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nakasa died after falling from a building in New York in an apparent suicide in 1965. He was 28. He was buried at the city’s Ferncliff Cemetery, until his exhumation earlier this year.

However, Nakasa’s nephew Dr Sipho Masondo said today that he rejected all claims of suicide.

He said that he had been told the night before Nakasa’s body was found on a New York pavement, that Nakasa had received a telephone call at Miriam Makeba’s New York home where he was interviewing her.

The next day on July 14 1965, he was dead, without having completed the interview.

“I do not accept that he committed suicide. He was a victim of the cold war,” said Masondo.

Tsedu said the reburial of Nakasa showed that government and the media could work together.

The ceremony was preceded by a procession of his coffin through Chesterville in Durban, where Nakasa originally came from.

Nakasa remains, which arrived at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport last month, were reburied at Chesterville’s Heroes Acre.

The final burial was attended only by family, selected guests and a hoard of media and a choir.

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