Nakasa arrives home

2014-08-20 00:00

THE Native of Nowhere is finally home — 50 years after leaving South Africa, the remains of renowned journalist Nat Nakasa returned to Durban yesterday.

For his family this will mean closure. For South Africans it means an end to a chapter that started in the darkest days of apartheid.

Nakasa, who grew up in Chesterville, left the country on an exit permit in 1964 and died while on a journalism fellowship in the U.S. the following year.

His remains were exhumed last week five decades after his death.

Soon after landing, Nakasa’s remains were taken to a hearse and a convoy of cars transporting his family, political leaders and officials held a short, closed meeting.

Thereafter the hearse, with a casket draped in the South African flag, took Nakasa’s remains to a marquee with former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe leading the way followd by police.

His nephew Sipho Masondo and National Heritage Council CEO Sonwabile Mancotywa joined the police officers as pall bearers when the remains were taken to the marquee for the welcome ceremony.

Nakasa’s sister Gladys Maphumulo followed with various dignitaries.

South African National Editors’ Forum executive director Mathatha Tsedu and Nakasa’s contemporary Joe Thloloe were also part of the procession.

As Nakasa’s life was celebrated, speakers told how returning his remains brought closure.

Masondo said while in the U.S., the family had visited the flat where Nakasa had jumped to his death.

“We don’t come back to mourn and cry. Nat was not about crying. Nat was about life,” he said.

While thankful his uncle would be buried at the Heroes’ Acre cemetery in Chesterville, on September 13, he said Nakasa, who called himself a Native of Nowhere, was in fact a native of South Africa, specifically Durban.

Tsedu, a former Harvard University Nieman fellow, said Nakasa’s writings centred on a man longing for his home.

“From everything I read; he had written, his heart was here and his body was there and he was not happy with that situation,” he said.

“It is emotional when I see police escorting him home. In days gone by, they would have stopped and asked Nat for his dompas. It becomes too much,” he said..

“When that plane touched [down] on Mother Africa, peace for Nat reigned,” Tsedu added.

Thloloe said Nakasa was now both home and in his fatherland.

“You are now back with your ancestors on African soil. You are no longer a native of nowhere,” he said.

Thloloe said Nakasa’s return was an opportunity for journalists to reflect on his work.

“Let’s not stop asking difficult questions even if it is dangerous to ask those questions.”

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the move restored Nakasa’s dignity and gave him back his citizenship.

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