The late Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo has been described as an advocate of transformation in both music and indigenous languages.

Khumalo was a celebrated composer and custodian of choral and traditional music. He died earlier this week at the age of 89. He was also among a team of academics that served on the committee that composed the country’s national anthem.

Khumalo introduced the idea of joining the new and old anthems for purposes of reconciliation. He is most renowned for preserving and promoting indigenous languages and cultures through song.

Professor Chatradari Devroop, who worked closely with Khumalo at the Southern African Music Rights Organisationm (SAMRO), says Khumalo was very big on transformation.

“We were embracing the whole notion of transformation and change and one of the individuals who was entrusted with guiding us in this process was Professor Khumalo because we were very unclear as to where indigenous African music located and he was very clear as to where it should actually fit into the broader skim of things in the national discourse on the one end and also on the other end from the role that independent organisations like SAMRO could actually play on making a difference towards redressing the imbalances that we had of the apartheid era. “

Devroop says Khumalo’s contribution to preserve indigenous languages is immeasurable.

“They all heeded his call and they took him very seriously to bring about these changes. You must remember during the process of transition towards the democratic South Africa people had their own ideas on what transformation, how we should transform, but he was very clear that this is how you introduce it. He used as examples the other indigenous languages that we had in South Africa. This is how you implement these other languages. We should try to adopt a similar approach to giving preference the Nguni languages – and not just the Nguni languages, but all of the neglected languages in South Africa.”

The life and times of the late Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo:

Khumalo became the first Black professor and head of department of African languages at Wits University in the 1980s during the apartheid regime.

Professor Sihawukele Ngubane from the University of KwaZulu-Natal says Khumalo transformed the way Nguni languages were taught.

“In the academia, we will remember him for his expertise in teaching tonology. He would break down a word like ‘hamba’ so there are complicated words where he would have a compilation of high lows so, he was an expert in tonology which is the branch of linguistics that he contributed. He will be remembered for that and also for his passion for music as a whole.”

Ngubane says Khumalo has left a rich legacy for South Africans through his teachings and music compositions.

Tributes continue to pour in for Prof Mzilikazi Khumalo: