A memorial service was held in Cape Town on Monday for legendary South African playwright and activist, Ronnie Govender.  Only close family were in attendance, but the service was streamed virtually.

The celebrated activist, playwright, director, and author, died on Thursday at the age of 86.

He was best known for capturing historical commentary through his books and stage plays including “The Lahnee’s Pleasure” and “At the Edge and Other Cato Manor Stories”.

Ronnie Govender was born on 16 May 1934 in Cato Manor in Durban.  He had 10 brothers and sisters.  He started writing stories and plays from a young age to portray a different reality to the injustices of apartheid. He wrote for the newspaper New Age to pay for his studies at UCT.  However, the newspaper was closed by the authorities one year after Govender joined.

He returned to Durban and entered Springfield Training College to become a teacher. After he became a teacher, Govender began his career as a writer.  He was married to Kamalam Govender, had four children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His son, Pat Govender, says his father touched many people’s lives and wanted his life to be a source of happiness.

“Today we celebrate his amazing role and legacy as a writer, a storyteller, a sports administrator and coach, activist, but most importantly as a fiercely devoted father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  We’ll endeavour to use our pain to help change the world, just like you did dad.”

Lotus FM’s Newsbreak looks at Govender’s life:

Govender wrote more than 12 plays, a book of short stories, which became a school set work, a novel, and an autobiography.  His play The Lahnee’s Pleasure was the longest-running theatre comedy in South Africa.  His granddaughter, Parusha Naidoo, says he was not well-known in the mainstream, but still made a significant impact in society.

“It was a surprise to me that my grandfather’s life impacted many other lives, some referred to him as a living legend, while he was still around. But he did not really receive the recognition he deserved in his lifetime.  I knew he was a lahnee and a big deal and I loved his writing and his plays. But I had no idea that his work was so highly regarded by his fellow South Africans until this last week.”

The South African government awarded Govender the Order of Ikhamanga in 2008 for his excellent contribution to democracy and justice in South Africa through the genre of theatre.  In 2014, the Durban University of Technology awarded Govender an honorary doctorate 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.

Newsbreak Talk pays tribute to the contribution that Ronnie Govender made, through his art and his activism, to the cause of justice and democracy in South Africa: