Hero’s welcome for Nat Nakasa

By Drum Digital
20 August 2014

The mortal remains of 1960s Drum journalist Nat Nakasa have returned to his home soil after being buried in exile in the US for nearly 50 years.

 Nakasa's remains arrived in Durban  on Tuesday with the delegation from the government and his family that flew to the US to repatriate them.

Those who attended the service to welcome the return of Nakasa, included veteran journalists Mathatha Tsedu and Joe Thloloe, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and KwaZulu-Natal ANC politicians. Nakasa, who fell to his death from a New York building in 1965, used to describe himself as a "native of nowhere" after the apartheid government forbade him to return home following his decision to take up a Nieman fellowship at Harvard.

Nat will be buried in Durban's Chesterville township next month. The repatriation of his remains has been described as the symbolic restoration of his citizenship after decades of being a stateless person in a foreign land.

"Mfowethu Nat, welcome back home. Welcome to your fatherland, welcome to our fatherland. You are now back with your ancestors on African soil. You are no longer a native of nowhere.

"Nat lying in Chesterville (township) will be a symbol of what should never ever happen again in our land. We should never ever limit freedom of expression, freedom of movement, or freedom of association.

"But the beauty of this day is that Nat Nakasa and all other heroes who fought for our liberation have been vindicated. What was once just a dream in Nat's mind...is now real. It is enshrine in the country's constitution,"said his friend and veteran journalist Joe Thloloe.

Veteran journalist Mathatha Tsedu, who won the prestigious Nieman fellowship in 1997, said he read what Nakasa wrote during his tenure at Harvard in the 1960s.

"It was touching stuff of a man who was longing for home. A few months down the line I took the trip with my family to Boston and we went to Ferndliff Cemetery to go and see where Nat was lying.

"That's when I realised he's lying just a few metres from Malik Al-Shabazz, otherwise popularly known as Malcolm X. They had met in life in Tanzania when Nat was waiting for a Tanzanian passport so that he can go and take up his fellowship.

"On that day as we stood at Ferncliff, I made a pact with myself that when I come back home I am going to try and see whether we can't bring Nat back him...his heart was here, and his body was there, and he was not happy with that situation," Tsedu said.

Mthethwa, who was part of the delegation that repatriated legendary journalist's remains, said the occassion of Nakasa's return fulfilled the dream of a free society where everyone would be treated with respect.

He said his ministry would continue working with the KwaZulu-Natal government in preparation for Nakasa's burial next month, which will be presided over by President Jacob Zuma.

"The repatriation of Nakasa is a positive testament to nation-building and social cohesion that he wrote about. This is an important victory for democracy and freedom in South Africa. This is also a vital step in redefining our purpose and fostering positive change in society," he said.

Nakasa is not the first person to reburied in KwaZulu-Natal. Both liberation struggle heroes Moses Mabhida and Johnny Makhathini were repatriated from foreign countries, and interred locally in the past few years.

Mthethwa said next month government representatives will go to Moscow to begin the process of repatriating SACP leader Moses Kotane who died in exile in that country in 1978. He said this was because his 102-year old widow wanted her husband's remains to be buried at home, and government was prioritizing her request.

By Sabelo Ndlangisa

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