The Durban University of Technology (DUT) says it is deeply saddened by the passing of the internationally recognised playwright, activist, and author, Dr Ronnie Govender.

He passed away on Thursday night at the age of 86 in Cape Town.

In 2014, DUT awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Technology in Arts and Design for his contribution to literature and the arts in general as well as his contribution to democracy, peace, and justice in South Africa through theatre.

At the graduation ceremony, Dr Govender said he was humbly indebted to DUT for recognising his efforts.  DUT’s Interim Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Professor Brian Pearce says Govender was a legend.

‘Pioneer of theatre’

Friends and colleagues of the acclaimed playwright are describing him as a pioneer of theatre.  He is best known for his books – ‘At the Edge’ and ‘Other Cato Manor Stories’ – which were prescribed in schools.

Govender’s theatre production – The Lahnee’s Pleasure – became one of the country’s longest-running plays.

Tributes 

In an emotional tribute, a close friend and theatre actress Jayshree Parasuramen says Govender used his work to immortalise the rich cultural and social tapestry of the country.

“When I think about Ron’s work, especially the Cato Manor stories, it will forever be alive from his books to his plays – The Lahnee’s Pleasure being the longest theatre running play. His stories will be forever green. and with regard to Cato Manor, I don’t think anybody else told those stories better than Ron. A library closes. Ron stood up for truth, he stood up for what he believed in, he stood up for those that he believed in and opened doors for many of us, including myself.”

‘Man for all seasons’

In a statement, Vanashree and Anant Singh have described him as a man for all seasons – a journalist, political activist, playwright and author. They say he took his inspiration from the ‘Indian experience’ of apartheid South Africa.

The couple says having known Govendeer since the 1970s, they spent memorable evenings in his company when he ran the Aquarius Restaurant in Reservoir Hills. Due to limited theatre venues for Indians in those days, he opened up the Aquarius as a theatre venue to stage his plays and that of fellow playwrights, making it one of the most popular entertainment venues of the time.

Dr Ronnie Govender received a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his play: At the Edge and Other Cato Manor Stories, played at the Edinburgh Festival.

In 2008,  he was also awarded the Order of Ikhamanga by the South African government for his contribution to democracy in the country through the genre of theatre.

“He was a prolific writer who made a significant contribution in the Arts fraternity.  The legacy he lives behind, will always be remembered.  We pray for the strength and comfort of those who are in mourning. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” says the university in a statement.