Final rest for Nat Nakasa

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Durban – Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the reburial of Nat Nakasa marks the closing of a tragic chapter for the Nakasa family and the nation’s history.

“In its own way, it is a momentous occasion as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the unbanning of the liberation movement and the return of exiles. It is an act of healing that signifies the dawn of a bright new day,” Minister Mthethwa said. 

Speaking at the reburial service of Nakasa, held at the Durban City Hall on Saturday, Minister Mthethwa said the forced departure of Nakasa for Harvard University in America tells the story of where South Africa comes from.

He said it evokes the memories of many members of the Sophiatown Renaissance, who were forced to go into exile because of political repression that followed the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960. 

“We should not lose sight of the fact that Nakasa, cosmopolitan as he was later to become in Johannesburg, belongs to a line of African intellectuals that went before him,” Minister Mthethwa said.

He described Nakasa as someone who was a nation builder and an agent of social cohesion before this became a buzzword. 

“One singular aim of Nakasa as a writer was the expression of the aspiration and hope for a new society with a clear definition of its identity,” Minister Mthethwa said. 

Nakasa left the country in 1964 on a one way exit permit after he was awarded a prestigious Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in the USA. 

He committed suicide in July 1965 by jumping from a window of a high-rise building. This was out of frustration of the thought not being able to come back home. He was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in upstate New York. 

At the time of his death, the late Nakasa was a student and also working as a journalist in the UK.

His remains were brought back to the country last month after government’s intervention following a long battle by his family to get his remains repatriated. 

Minister Mthethwa said his repatriation signals an important victory.  

“We are very pleased and happy that Nakasa is back home in South Africa after 49 years. The act of reburial thus solidifies that he is part of our heritage,” Minister Mthethwa said.


He described the late Nakasa as someone who was preoccupied with exposing the absurdity of the apartheid system. 

South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) executive director, Mathatha Tsedu, paid tribute to Nakasa.

“Nat’s story evokes anger, but today it feels good to be an African,” he said. 

Tsedu thanked government for making it possible for Nakasa’s remains to be brought home, saying this shows that government can work with the media. 

Tsedu said he was saddened that the country was robbed of Nakasa through the apartheid system.  


Nakasa’s grandchild, Lucky Sibiya, (28), told SAnews that the reburial of Nakasa will enable the family to move on. 

“As a family, we are happy that the remains have been brought home. We are happy that he is home,” he said. 

Although Sibiya was not born when Nakasa left the country, he feels apartheid took away a family member.

“It’s all because of the apartheid regime that he left the country and not to come back home,” he said. 

Family representative Dr Sipho Masondo described Nakasa as a man who would always put others first. 

“Nat was not only for South Africa, but he was also for America. He was for all of us,” he said. 

During his short-lived life, Nakasa made himself a name in the media world. He worked for the Ilanga newspaper, published in Zulu and English. He later moved to Johannesburg where he joined Post and later Drum magazine. He also freelanced for publications in Germany, Sweden, the USA and Britain.

The funeral service was attended by among others, representatives from government, private sector, political organisations and also members of the public. 

Nakasa’s remains were buried at the Heroes’ Acres in Chesterville, just outside Durban. –