Statement by Mandla Langa on behalf of the Coordinating Committee about the funeral arrangements for the late Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile.
We are gathered here to provide update on the progress made towards the burial and commemoration of internationally renowned liberation struggle stalwart and South Africa’s National Poet Laureate, Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile, who passed away on Wednesday, 3 January, after a short illness.
Kgositsile was an internationalist of note and his passing has reverberated across the globe. In the 79 years of his life, Kgositsile touched the lives of many through his poetry and political activism. Following the instruction by the leadership of the ANC for him to leave the country, he went into exile in 1961. He existed the country via Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and settled in Tanzania for a year before moving to the United States of America (USA) where he studied worked and published poetry for over a decade.
In his three decades of exile, Kgositsile continued to fight injustices through his poetry, teachings and publications. He lived in several countries including the US, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya. Upon his return to South Africa following the jettisoning of the apartheid regime in 1994, Kgositsile worked with several academic and government institutions. In his lifetime, he mentored a countless number of cultural practitioners, academics and political activists.
A special funeral committee has been established to ensure that this national icon is accorded a fitting send-off that will be accommodative of his dynamic personality. The committee is comprised of family representatives, the ANC in Gauteng, Government representatives from the Departments of Arts and Culture, Office of the Premier in Gauteng, and artists who worked closely with Kgositsile.
The committee is comprised of Mandla Langa, Trevor Fowler, Dr Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane, Ntombi Mekgwe, the ANC Gauteng Provincial Treasurer, MECs For Community Safety, Arts Culture and Recreation, Mr. Vusumuzi Mkhize, the DG of the Department of Arts and Culture, Ms Monica Newton, the HOD of Arts and Culture in Gauteng, Mr Mduduzi Mbada Special Advisor to the Premier of Gauteng, Mr Raks Seakhoa of wRite Associates, Mr Zweli Ndlovu and Siphiwo Mahala, who all worked very closely with Bra Willie.
The Presidency consulted with the family and proposed that given Kgositsile’s stature and contribution to society, he should be accorded a Special Official Funeral. The family welcomes this decision by President Jacob Zuma, and is delighted that Kgositsile is duly honoured in this manner. Indeed, Kgositsile was among the pantheon of selfless men and women who courageously fought against apartheid and for the freedom of the people of South Africa.
The Special Official Funeral category is for distinguished persons specifically designated by the President of the Republic. The President has ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at every flag station in the country on Tuesday, 16 January 2018, the day of the funeral. We are pleased that the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa H.E Mr Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy on behalf of the Presidency and the people of South Africa at the funeral.
Subsequent the falling of this giant, the family has received messages of condolences from political activists and organisations, the arts fraternity, civil society and the academia locally and across the globe. We welcome these messages of condolences, eulogies and flowers that have been delivered to the family home and other relevant points. Arrangements are underway to ensure a seamless process in coordinating these tributes and creating platforms for the various members of society to pay homage to Kgositsile.
In anticipation of many tributes and what we have received thus far, we have made an arrangement for every day between 18:00 and 19:00, to hold sessions to celebrate the life of Kgositsile at the family home in Killarney. The Condolence Books will be available from tomorrow at the family homes both in Killarney and Diepkloof. Further arrangements will be made for the message book to be available at the Market Theatre in Newtown and at the City Hall during the memorial services on the 11th and 12th of January respectively.
We are aware of the various events that are organised to celebrate the life of this stalwart in other parts of the country and the world over. We encourage all those concerned to continue celebrating the life of this icon in a dignified manner befitting an icon of his stature.
We are aware that on Saturday, 6 January, a memorial event was held at the MLA in New York. The event included tributes by various activists who either knew Kgositsile personally or have been touched by his life. In a true Kgositsile form, many of the commemorative events include the reading of poetry, jazz music and reflections on society. This is how Kgositsile would have preferred to be celebrated.
The upcoming commemorative events leading up to the funeral on Tuesday, 16th January 2018, will include:
- 10th January 2018 – the John Nkadimeng Branch will hold a memorial service in honour of Prof at Houghton Primary School at 17h30
- The Official Memorial Service will be held on the 11th January 2018 – at the Johannesburg City Hall from 12:00 – 16:00,
- 12th January 2018 – Memorial service at Market Theatre, in Newton, 12:00.
These events are organized in such a way that we will all have an opportunity to celebrate the life of this great icon who was humble, selfless and dedicated to empowering the mind and imparting knowledge. All these events including the funeral are open to the public.
On 16 January 2018 – Funeral will start at home in Diepkloof at 7am. The funeral service at Marks Park will start at 09:00am service and will then proceed to West Park Cemetery for the burial. This programme has been developed by the committee in consultation with the family and his political home, the ANC, to ensure that many people are able to attend and pay their last respects to Kgositsile.
Leading up to the funeral, we will continue providing information through media briefings and advisories in order to keep members of the public and other interested stakeholders informed of the progress.
On behalf of the family, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the support that the media has shown since the news of the passing of Bra Willie broke out. We are looking forward to working with you until the final send off on 16 January.