A front row seat at Johnny Clegg’s world class farewell

When South Africans pull together, the force is unstoppable. As around 2,000 of us witnessed on Friday when the country’s leading musicians, writers and artists put on a world class Memorial to the late Johnny Clegg – just ten days after the national icon died.

The musical tributes, led by Clegg’s talented son Jessie and long-retired Juluka partner Sipho Mchunu, were sublime. Eulogies from actor John Kani and writers Charles van Onselen and Max du Preez added to an unforgettable sendoff for a man whose values of tolerance and love provide beacons for an often confused young democracy.

I found myself seated next to one of the last people Johnny engaged with, unassuming nursing sister Gerda Labuschagne. She told me he went peacefully the day after the family had spent a long evening around Clegg’s bed: “His breathing briefly returned to normal, and then, with the final sigh we always hear when people pass, he was gone…”

Labuschagne and her team at Netcare’s palliative care unit spent the last three weeks at the Clegg home, ensuring their famous patient was comfortable. The matronly nursing sister said he was special, and that as a young lass she “would definitely have gone for him”. As millions of us did. Hamba Kahle, Johnny Clegg.

Comment from Biznews community member Harold Idensohn:

Thanks Alec for a warm tribute to one of Southern Africa’s greatest sons.

He touched so many lives with his poetic music and played a very important and brave role in bringing about change in South Africa.

He will be sorely missed.

Regards.