Ramaphosa: Joseph Shabalala is a 'true ambassador' for SA

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An image of Joseph Shabalala is seen during the memorial service of the lead vocalist of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
An image of Joseph Shabalala is seen during the memorial service of the lead vocalist of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Fani Mahuntsi, Gallo Images

The late founder of multi-award-winning vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo was a "true ambassador" for South Africa and the Zulu culture.

This was the sentiment President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed at Joseph Shabalala's funeral on Saturday.

Shabalala died after a long illness on February 11 in Pretoria. He was 78.

In the days after the news broke, Ramaphosa announced that a special official funeral category 2 would be held in Shabalala's honour. The president also ordered that flags be flown at half-mast until the evening of February 22.

The president delivered the eulogy at Shabalala's funeral, saying he was a man who was truly deserving of the title "legend" and described him as one of the most "inspiring and remarkable men of our time".

"He was one of South Africa's most decorated artists… a music genius," Ramaphosa said.

"He scaled the heights of stardom on stages and in concert halls around the world."

Earlier in the day, artists, friends and family also paid tribute to the icon. 

Singer Lebo M described Shabalala as a "true giant". 

"Long before some of us were born, [Joseph] laid a path for us to dream of success in many different ways. We're truly honoured that we stand on the shoulders of Giants. But some of us know, from within the industry, that we stand on the shoulders of an icon – a man who has turned Hollywood upside down, and the world over," she said.

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