Clegg and Nkonyeni left South Africa a better place - Ramaphosa

2019-07-17 12:00
Johnny Clegg. (Photo: Herman Verwey/Rapport/Archives/Media24)

Johnny Clegg. (Photo: Herman Verwey/Rapport/Archives/Media24)

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Musician Johnny Clegg and theatre doyenne Nomhle Nkonyeni left South Africa a better place because they enriched South African culture and broke down apartheid barriers, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a message of condolence on Wednesday.

"South Africa is a better place today due to the courage, resilience and irrepressible creativity of these two special icons from whom we are now taking our leave," said Ramaphosa.

Clegg died on Tuesday at the age of 66. Nkonyeni died last Wednesday at the age of 77.

Ramaphosa described Clegg as a "beloved, inspirational and heroic voice", saying his death left the country bereft of an "exceptional compatriot and icon of social cohesion and non-racialism".

Read more: Hamba kahle, Johnny Clegg 

He also remembered Sipho Mchunu and Dudu Zulu with whom Clegg had forged a special relationship as they rode their wave of fame.

The president also said their music gave apartheid-era South Africa a window to the non-racial South Africa "we were determined to achieve".

"We have lost a special patriot."

Ramaphosa said: "Mama Nomhle's charisma and courage made her an extraordinary artist and compatriot who "committed herself to the liberation of all South Africans and the broadening of South Africa's cultural richness". 

"She overcame the barriers of race and gender imposed by apartheid to become a cultural icon who was duly honoured with the national Order of Ikhamanga." 

Even though Nkonyeni was in her 70s, she worked with a group of young aspirant artists in the Eastern Cape, who go by the name Isithebe Drama Group. She helped nurture and mentor them and prepare them for shows at events, such as The National Arts Festival.

READ: Confirmed: South African music legend Johnny Clegg (66) dies

In 2012, Clegg was honoured as an esteemed member of the national Order of Ikhamanga – awarded in silver – for his contribution to and achievement in the field of bridging African traditional music with other music forms.

It was also for promoting racial understanding among racially divided groups in South Africa under difficult apartheid conditions, working for a non-racial society and being an outstanding spokesperson for the release of political prisoners.

Ramaphosa extended his condolences to the family, friends and followers of Nkonyeni and Clegg. 

Nkonyeni's family has invited members of the public to join them in honouring her life at memorial services. 

The services will be in Port Elizabeth at Nangoza Jebe Hall at 15:00 on Wednesday, July 17; and at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg at 17:00.

Her funeral church service, which will start at 08:00, will take place at Arthur Wellington Methodist Church in New Brighton on Friday.

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Read more on:    nomhle nkonyeni  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  johnny clegg
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