The remains of unwilling exile will finally come home

2014-06-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Fifty years after the young writer and journalist Nat Nakasa left South Africa, his remains will return to his fatherland.

The government received permission from the High Court of the State of New York to repatriate his remains. The news was announced on Friday night by Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa during a banquet at which the recipients of the Nat Nakasa journalism prizes were announced.

The remains of Nakasa, who was born in Durban, will be reburied in the heroes’ acre near Chesterville in KwaZulu-Natal.

The re-burial culminates the efforts over the past 20 years of several groups, including Nakasa’s family, academics and especially the local media, to repatriate Nakasa’s remains. The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), was instrumental in this effort. Arts and Culture has been working with the premier’s office in KwaZulu-Natal, the eThekwini municipality and the South African consul in New York to exhume his grave and return the remains to South Africa. A legal firm was appointed in 2012 to speed up the process.

Nathaniel Ndazana Nakasa (1937-1965) was a journalist at the magazine Drum and the newspaper the Rand Daily Mail. He received the sought-after Nieman Fellowship to study journalism at Harvard in America in 1964.

The apartheid government turned down his application for a passport, forcing Nakasa to leave South Africa on an exit permit, which effectively sent him into exile.

A year after his arrival in New York, he jumped off a building, to die at 28. He wrote to his friends saying he was longing for his home. He was buried in the Fern­cliff cemetery in New York. The American human rights activist Malcolm X and author James Baldwin are buried in the same cemetery. A date for the re-burial will be announced later.

• The Cape journalist Alide Dasnois won the 2014 Nat Nakasa prize for brave journalism. She was the editor of the Cape Times, but was dismissed last year.

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