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Maureen Isaacson on John Matshikiza

John MatshikizaWith the Lid OffDrum Decade - The 2nd Edition: Stories from the 1950's“John Matshikiza would not have wished to be sanctified in death,” writes Maureen Isaacson in an obituary of the late playwright, actor, director, journalist and newspaper columnist who had a propensity to eviscerate the “thought police think-tank”. In numerous glowing tributes published in recent days he has been lauded as a significant voice with a fiercely independent spirit who will not be forgotten.

Isaacson was at the wake attended by his many friends at the Bassline last Friday. She writes, “In public and in private, Matshikiza was confrontational, demanding, but when friends were under attack, he rushed to their defence.”

Sadly, there was nobody to defend Matshikiza last December when he fell victim to a violent hijacking. He never fully recovered from this attack and his health deteriorated in its wake.

In an interview on Thursday, his mother, Esme Matshikiza, said that Matshikiza was “very honest; he did not mince his words but, at the same time, he was very silent. He was very caring, about absolutely everything and although he did not say much there was no question that he always supported me. But I would never have expected this overwhelming response to his death.” This outpouring of love was comforting for the family. None of the many people I spoke to at the wake following his fatal heart attack and on the phone called Matshikiza an angel; many said he “was not easy”.

…In his Mail & Guardian columns, he wrote of his travels into the “real Africa, that lies beyond the Limpopo”.

There he understood that South Africa was, in 1999, in fact still at war, “a low-intensity racial war and a high-intensity war of murder, wanton robbery, rape, violation, self-loathing and xenophobia”.

Photo of John Matshikiza courtesy of glooctv

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