The 20th of June 2020 is the birthday of an international colossus in choral music, Professor Mzilikazi James Steven Khumalo.
We thank God for blessing him to reach the twilight of his years and the ripe age of 88. As the province of KwaZulu-Natal, we are grateful and proud that the umbilical cord of this icon was cut KwaNgwelu (Mountain View), around Vryheid.
We celebrate the fact that he lived and grew up in places like Hlabisa and Durban, before settling in Gauteng.
On behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and the Provincial Government, we wish Professor Khumalo a happy and fulfilling birthday.
Professor Khumalo is our nation’s luminary and icon in African indigenous music.
He lives forever in the soul of our nation through his phenomenal and timeless compositions of African orchestra and choral music.
His revered name is synonymous with legendary compositions like uShaka ka Senzangakhona, Ma Ngificwa Ukufa, and the opera, Princess Magogo.
He will always be remembered for his sterling role in directing the Annual Sowetan Nation Building Massed Choir Festival, an idea that was inspired by the late Sowetan’s Editor, Aggrey Klaaste, whom yesterday marked 16 years of his passing away.
Among his many accolades, founding President Nelson Mandela, honoured Professor Khumalo with the Order of the Star. It was also President Mandela who asked him to be a part of the team that composed the new national anthem which reworked the earlier versions of Nkosi Sikelela’ i-Afrika and Die Stem.
Professor Khumalo is also a linguist specialising in tonology, phonology, and morphology. His PhD in Linguistics was awarded by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 1987.
He is a pioneer who critiqued and revised CM Doke’s phonetics and morphology of isiZulu. In 2016, Wits awarded him an honorary doctorate in music.
With all his academic success, Professor Khumalo always insisted that throughout his extraordinary journey in life, music remained his first love.
Those he taught at Wits speak fondly of a soft spoken, polished, and, dressy Professor Khumalo who inspired generations of students to take their academic studies seriously to be able to contribute meaningfully in national development.
To forge a peaceful, united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous KwaZulu –Natal, we renew our pledge to nation building and social cohesion. We recommit ourselves to honour the humanity and dignity of women by working tirelessly to root out the scourge and horror of violence that South African women and girls continue to face.
We vow, to use our developmental state to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment.
We must take lessons from Khumalo and Klaaste’s own work and bring many of our citizens in the creative sector to reimagine and usher a KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa that is at peace with itself and the world.
We intend using the arts to dialogue with all our people and explore imaginative possibilities that will deliver a prosperous province where children, women, people living with disabilities – everyone – will feel safe, loved, and cared for.
As we navigate the crisis of Covid-19, we want to bring the creative sector at the centre of our efforts to recalibrate and rebuild our economy to serve all our people.
In the process, we will compose our own provincial anthem of hope and paint our dreams in the colour of the rainbow.
Together we must enact and stage our deepest desires; and bring all our citizens behind a colourful carnival of peace and a festival of healing and development.
Once again, thank you Mzilikazi ka Mashobane and may you have yourself a memorable 88th birthday filled only with love, peace, and joy.