Former President, Nelson Mandela has expressed sadness at the death of singing legend “Mama Afrika”.

Miriam Makeba, who was commonly known as “Mama Afrika” the world over, collapsed after a performance in Italy on Sunday night.

“The sudden passing of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation,” said Mr Mandela, adding that for many decades, Mama Afrika featured prominently in people’s lives and they enjoyed her moving performances at their respective homes.

“Despite her tremendous sacrifice and the pain she felt to leave behind her beloved family and her country when she went into exile, she continued to make us proud as she used her worldwide fame to focus attention on the abomination of apartheid,” he said.

Mr Mandela said Ms Makeba’s haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years.

“At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us. Even after she returned home she continued to use her name to make a difference by mentoring musicians and supporting struggling young women.

“One of her more recent projects was to highlight the plight of victims of land mines,” he said.

Mr Mandela said she was South Africa’s first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika.

“She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours. It was fitting that her last moments were spent on a stage, enriching the hearts and lives of others – and again in support of a good cause,” he said.

Meanwhile, tributes are pouring in for the late Ms Makeba.

Government issued a statement early on Monday on behalf of President Kgalema Motlanthe, Ambassadors and High Commissioners stationed abroad as well as the management and staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“We convey our heartfelt condolences to members of the bereaved family,” Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said, describing her as one of the greatest songstresses of our time.

“Miriam Makeba, South Africa’s Goodwill Ambassador died performing what she did best – the ability to communicate a positive message through the art of singing.”

Mama Africa passed way at the Veneto Verde hospital near Naples, Italy, on Sunday after performing at the Castel Volturno. While leaving the stage, Ms Makeba collapsed. She received paramedic assistance and was rushed to hospital, where she passed way.

According to the minister, it was befitting that after the dawn of democracy, government saw it fit to appoint her Goodwill Ambassador (Makeba) of South Africa through which she continued to communicate a positive message to the world about developments in the country.

“In this context, the Ministry Foreign Affairs will miss her invaluable contribution to efforts aimed at projecting a positive image of our country abroad.”

The Ms Makeba announced her retirement from the music industry three years ago, but continued to perform. She is survived by two grandchildren and her great grandchildren Lindelani, Ayanda and Kwame.

By Nthambeleni Gabara


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