RIP Kaunda Ntunja — the man who united rugby and isiXhosa

21 July 2020 - 10:08 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Kaunda Ntunja died on Monday, aged 38.
Kaunda Ntunja died on Monday, aged 38.
Image: SuperSport/Twitter

“He elevated isiXhosa to greater heights in sports broadcasting. Your voice is mute but your legend remains.”

These are the words of Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, who paid tribute to rugby commentator Kaunda Ntunja after his death on Monday.

Ntunja died at age 38 in East London, and the cause of his death is yet to be revealed. His sister, Tando, shared the news on social media.

“It is with deep sadness that I confirm the passing of our beloved brother Kaunda Ntunja, earlier today in East London, Eastern Cape,” she said.

“As you can imagine, we still trying to make sense of this tragic news and we ask for your love, care and discretion as we prepare to lay my big brother to rest.”

Ntunja was regarded as one of the most animated and popular commentators in rugby and was a household name as an anchor on SuperSport's Xhosa commentary team.

His commentary of Makazole Mapimpi’s try during the Rugby World Cup final win over England last year saw him trending for days with many reciting his words: “Liqhashu! yibubbly, shampompo, shampizi! Izinto ezihlwahlwazayo!”

Posting on Twitter, Mabuyane said he would always remember Ntunja for his unforgettable commentary.

“We join millions in paying tribute kwesi sisele senyathi. He carved his name in our hearts, that unforgettable shampompo commentary behind Rugby World Cup 2019 winning try! Your voice is mute but your legend remains,” he said.

Broadcaster Robert Marawa said Ntunja was brilliant behind the mic.

“You can never script the brilliant articulation of this historical SA rugby moment and trust me he was that brilliant behind the mic ... In the same light, you can never script this life journey. Hamba kahle Tata, your family has endured such pain recently,” said Marawa.

In a statement, sports broadcaster and Ntunja’s employer SuperSport expressed its sympathy with his family.

The channel's CEO, Gideon Khobane, said they were devastated by his death.

“The SuperSport family is devastated,’ said Khobane. “Kaunda was larger than life, a generous, warm-hearted man who cared deeply for the game he loved and the people within. He will be terribly missed by us all.

“Apart from Kaunda’s rugby prowess, he had a creative bent which saw him enter the world of television production, where he was both successful and prominent.

“He made a seamless transition to television presenting and was energised by the potential of isiXhosa commentary on SuperSport. He became famous for his unbridled enthusiasm and unique spin on commentary, something that endeared him to television,” Khobane added.

Here is a screenshot of what tweeps had to say.