Nelson Mandela Foundation mourns Johnny Clegg

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Nelson Mandela Foundation says South Africa will always be grateful for the life and work of musician and activist Jonathan “Johnny” Clegg. 

The foundation joined the nation in mourning the loss of the music legend, who passed away after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. The 66-year-old died at his family home in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Clegg was an activist who supported and participated in the broad anti-apartheid movement. 

The foundation described Clegg as a South African of extraordinary quality.

“The loss of Johnny Clegg will be felt deeply by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.  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.

Foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele recalled how in the early 1980s when he was studying in the United States, his father - a lover of the arts - visited and brought along with him two LPs (long playing) by Johnny Clegg. 

“My family and I played them over and over. That music became one of our emotional connections to home,” Ndebele said. 

Also paying tribute to the music icon, Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang said the way Clegg lived his life exemplified an embrace of ‘the other’ and a generosity towards those one disagrees with. 

“South Africa needs that energy and those attributes desperately today, when too often we find that colour matters more than character, affiliation more than principle, and reward more than service.

“We will always be grateful for the life and work of Johnny Clegg.  Siyabonga kakhulu (thank you very much). Hamba kahle mfowethu (farewell brother),” Hatang said.

In 1996, Madiba who had the greatest respect for Clegg, described his music as combining “the strains of hope and despair”. 

A decade later, he said in a South Africa still driven by racial and other divides, more people like Clegg were needed. –