Tributes pour in for SA music legend, Johnny Clegg

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CAPE TOWN, July 16 – Condolences continued to pour in on Wednesday for the friends and family of South African music legend Johnny Clegg who died on Tuesday at his home in Johannesburg after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 66-years old.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday joined South Africans and extended its condolences. “We send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Johnny Clegg showed all South Africans and the world what was possible for this country. He has led the way, in that he dismantled the apartheid theories and embraced the diversity of all South Africans to the chagrin of apartheid architects and stooges,” Cosatu spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

“Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu’s decision to form the Juluka Band showed in one simple move the lunacy that was apartheid.  It was not an easy choice because the then SABC and other media outlets refused to play their music despite its overwhelming popularity,” added Pamla.

Juluka defied the harsh censorship laws and the real risk of being assassinated by the police hit squads to sing songs about unity and freedom. They also embraced Cosatu’s call for work for all.  Juluka showed South Africans, the continent and the world that despite the fascism of the apartheid regime, South Africans could and would live together as one, according to the federation.

“The Clegg family’s loss is one deeply felt the entire nation, including all those across the world who rallied around South Africans’ call for a non-racial democracy,” Pamla said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has also conveyed his condolences to the friends and family of veteran actress Nomhle Nkonyeni and music legend Clegg.

Both Nkonyeni and Clegg received the National Order of Ikhamanga, awarded to South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism or sport. Nkonyeni, 77, died on July 10 after a short illness.

In a statement, Ramaphosa said: “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.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Clegg was a South African of extraordinary quality, someone Madiba would have called a patriot. Johnny was a friend of the Foundation from its inception and supported many of Madiba’s projects.

“We will miss him and his enormous energy.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and with everyone who was touched by his music,” the foundation said.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said Clegg had throughout his career continuously displayed great commitment and passion in all his performances. He made an incredible mark in the music industry and the transformation of society.

“His artistic work will continue to form part of the SABC’s rich archives. His contribution to the music industry will remain and continue to inspire young people who looked up to him as an inspirational artist,” said SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu.

The chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on sports, arts, and culture, Beauty Dlulane, commended Clegg’s contribution to the South African music industry and his association with the anti-apartheid movement.

“Not too many people would have taken the stance Johnny took at the height of racial divisions in the country. He identified with the popular struggle for the emancipation of black people and with the values of a free society.

“He also made an immeasurable contribution to the arts. We will certainly miss ‘the white Zulu’. The committee wishes that his spirit will live long among many in society,” Dlulane said.

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu said: “The DUT community extends its sincere condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Dr. Johnny Clegg. We are very sad that a great legend has passed on.”

Alan Khan, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at DUT said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jenny and his sons Jesse and Jaron at this challenging time.”

In September 2018, together with his friend and Juluka bandmate, Sipho Mchunu, Clegg was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at DUT for his significant contribution to the world of music. He epitomized the “Spirit of the Great Heart.”

Khan added, “Johnny Clegg spoke out about the injustices of apartheid, he created awareness about the challenges affecting migrant workers and he highlighted the struggles faced by the majority of South Africans on a daily basis. When many others had failed, Dr Johnny Clegg, together with Dr. Sipho Mchunu in Juluka and then later with Savuka, promoted and practiced social cohesion and unity in South Africa.”

– African News Agency (ANA)