‘Disgraceful’ resting place

2019-06-19 15:23
Khanyisile Nyembezi at the Edendale Cemetery, which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Khanyisile Nyembezi at the Edendale Cemetery, which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

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While the world prepares to bid a final farewell to legendary South African musician and political activist Ndikho Xaba, his family have expressed sadness at the state of the Edendale cemetery.

Xaba, who died on June 11, is due to be buried at the cemetery later this month alongside his father, Reverend John Xaba, various evangelists from the Methodist Church of South Africa and political activist Selby Msimang.

And while it was his dying wish to be buried at the cemetery, Khanyisile Nyembezi, a relative, told The Witness on Tuesday that the state of the cemetery amounted to disrespect for the sacrifices made by him and all the other people whose remains lie at the cemetery.

“For people with that history and that legacy to have a cemetery like this is really disgraceful. We are going to be having people coming from the U.S. and other parts of the world [for the funeral]. It really does not project a good image.

“Edendale is so significant historically. The least that can be done is to ensure that the final resting place of these African evangelists and political icons is in good condition and demonstrates respect,” said Nyembezi.

She said the family have been fruitlessly walking the enormous graveyard over the past week trying to locate Xaba’s father’s grave, without a clear map.

When The Witness visited the graveyard on Tuesday, some of the tombstones, surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds, were vandalised and defaced.

Nyembezi said while she had personally spoken to an official from Msunduzi Municipality about the cemetery last year and its legacy in Edendale, the request for the graveyard to be maintained regularly had fallen on deaf ears.

“As you can see from the streets here, litter is quite a problem. The official was going to get back to me, but I suppose other things got in the way.

“I see the cemetery as part of a big clean-up operation and although there was a meeting on cleanliness in these areas, I don’t know what became of it.

“I just don’t see a clear concerted effort.”

The youngest of six boys, Ndikho Xaba was born in 1934 in Pietermaritzburg. His first instrument was the penny-whistle, which he taught himself to play. Xaba would go on to play several other instruments throughout his career — all self-taught.

After landing himself on the radar of the notorious police “Special Branch” during the apartheid era for being present at ANC Youth League meetings and events with musical group Tympany Slickers in the late 50s, Xaba had to maintain a low profile.

In 1962 he joined Alan Paton’s theatre production Sponono. Not only was it hugely successful in South Africa, but it also went on to become the first African play to run on Broadway.

He also produced a number of albums and also collaborated with the likes of the late Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela.

For 34 years — 1964 to 1998 — he lived in exile in the U.S., Canada and Tanzania.

The Witness inquired from Msunduzi Municipality via e-mail who is responsible for maintaining the cemetery and if indeed a request had been made by the Xaba family for its regular mantainance.

The municipality did not respond.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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