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RIP Johnny Clegg: Five must-read stories about 'the white Zulu'

18 July 2019 - 06:13 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Johnny Clegg dances for a group of men.
Johnny Clegg dances for a group of men.
Image: Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

South Africa is mourning the death of Johnny Clegg following his five-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

The renowned artist died at his Johannesburg home on Tuesday. Known as "the white Zulu", his musical legacy is one of the greatest ever produced in South Africa and his body of work brought the country together.

Here are five must-read Clegg stories:

Love for Zulu culture

Clegg's identity crisis at the age of 15 ignited his deep love for Zulu culture and language.

He said even though it took him a while and a lot of work to learn the language, Zulu was his saviour in many respects.


One of the musician's magical moments was singing Asimbonanga for late former president Nelson Mandela.

According to Clegg, the moment he saw Mandela on stage, 11 years after the song's initial release, he knew it would be the highlight of his career.

Musical goals

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was the legendary musician's mission to achieve all his musical goals, before retiring later this year.

In 2017, he told TshisaLIVE that after being diagnosed he learnt to appreciate life's little gifts. 

Honorary doctorate

In 2018, Clegg's ill-health prevented him from personally accepting an honorary doctorate in visual and performing arts from the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

The crossing

The tribute song The Crossing saw a talented group of musicians and friends come together to raise money for education, while honouring Clegg.

The group included Somizi Mhlongo, Abigail Kubeka, Lira, Judith Sephuma, Kahn Morbee, Karlien van Jaarsveld and Kurt Darren.