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SANEF Mourns the Death of Veteran Photographer Lucky Nxumalo

Veteran Photographer and Journalist Lucky Nxumalo

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has learned with profound sadness of the passing of Daily Sun photographer Lucky Nxumalo.

Nxumalo lost his battle to cancer on Sunday evening after a long battle against the disease at his Orlando East home in Soweto where he grew up, surrounded by his family. He had just turned 51 years old on December 2.

“We have known and loved Lucky for his incredibly positive and exuberant attitude and genuine and kind spirit that touched all of us. It shone ever so brightly in his work through his lens. The journalism industry is poorer without his contribution. He will be sorely missed by the Daily Sun family and our deepest condolences go out to his wife Tumi, his six children and his family. Funeral details will be shared in due course,” said Daily Sun’s editor-in-chief Mapula Nkosi.

Nxumalo first picked up a camera in his teens earning money as a street photographer. His journalism career as a photographer started in the mid-80s with several freelance gigs at local magazines and newspapers.

Having excelled in covering various beats including entertainment, hard news and sports, he was one of rare breed of journalists who had the talent to connect with people from kings to hawkers with admirable ease. Nxumalo nurtured all these relationships that turned his contact book and sources from all spheres of life into the envy of many journalists. Young journalists who worked with him over the years were as a result, mentored and eased into journalism using his impeccable sources.

Colleagues speak in awe of his unlimited kindness where he would always end up helping the subjects in the stories he had covered and would keep in touch with them for years to come. In his early years, he loved documenting Mzansi’s showbiz stars, particularly documenting the life and times of Brenda Fassie and other iconic showbiz trailblazers of the 90s.

“Lucky knew a lot of people and he had good contacts. I remember he was invited to Kenny Kunene’s 40th birthday party in Sandton and the “King of Sushi” ate sushi off a bikini-clad model. City Press was the only publication that had the picture on that Sunday and Lucky had taken it,” former Sowetan and City Press picture editor, Ruth Motau, recalled some of his exploits.

The sushi king and that iconic picture has since become part of the history of an intriguing moment in Mzansi’s popular culture.

Photographer Neo Ntsoma described Nxumalo as “an exceptional photographer, a true friend, and a gentleman who always made sure that female photographers felt safe around him even when out in the field covering assignments that were somehow compromising of our safety”.

“He would often shield us from possible danger or even offer to carry our camera gear just like a true big brother whose main concern was to protect the lives of those he cared for the most. The industry has lost a true lensman. Lucky Nxumalo was a legend in his own right. He was truly dedicated to his craft. What a loving soul we have lost. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with him in his lifetime,” said Ms Ntsoma.

Outside showbiz, Nxumalo kept pace with his many police contacts covering raids and arrests and he was equally at home on the political frontlines recording the turbulent 90s protests or at the Soweto Derby covering soccer. A former colleague, Antonio Muchave recalled how Lucky practised for weeks to master the art of taking sports pictures. This turned him into a regular feature at all the big soccer matches during the 90s and 2000s.

At the time of his passing Nxumalo had been Daily Sun’s photographer for the past 12 years since 2008. He also did most of the photographic work for Sunday Sun. Before working for Daily Sun, Nxumalo had worked for Sowetan Newspaper and City Press and was also a freelance photographer at Bona Magazine.

SANEF extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Lala ngoxolo Zwide.

Tribute to a true lensman

By Neo Ntsoma

I have not only lost an industry colleague. Lucky was a true comrade and a brother whom I was introduced to by the legendary photographer Thomas “Bra Tom” Khoza around 1996 at his film processing Lab at corner Nugget and End street, Johannesburg.
Back in 1996, during the difficult times of my life as an unemployed aspiring photographer and young mother straight from photo school, I was fortunately introduced to a young man, a slightly seasoned photographer, Lucky Nxumalo, at Tom’s Lab in downtown Joburg.
The film processing and photo printing lab sat the corner of End and Nugget Streets, was home to many black freelance photographers and fans of Bra Tom, as he is affectionately known.
I had arrived from Mafikeng one morning to print photos for a kindergarten for their end of year calendar promo packages.
For some reason, Lucky was the one I connected with the most. He was the most charismatic of the lot. I did not have a place to spend the night. Lucky took a chance and offered me a place to sleep at his mother’s house at Orlando East.
At that time, no male person had ever shown me any kindness without expecting any compromising favours in return. The next morning we jumped into a taxi back to town where he showed me where I could have my photos printed on calendars and coffee mugs at a reduced price.
He was not just an exceptional photographer but a true friend, and a gentleman who always made sure that female photographers felt safe around him even when out in the field covering assignments that were somehow compromising of our safety. He would often shield us from possible danger or even offer to carry our camera gear just like a true big brother whose main concern was to protect the lives of those he cared for the most. Lucky Nxumalo was a legend in his own right and a dedicated craftsman. The industry has lost a true lensman. What a loving soul we have lost. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with him in his lifetime.

Nxumalo was a humanitarian

By Ruth Motau

Everyone who has crossed paths with Lucky Nxumalo has had a good share of his kindness. Lux was a humanitarian as I used to call him. He had a heart of gold. He was reliable and always willing to go an extra mile. Lucky was a lifesaver. There were moments where I did not have any photographer to go on a sudden assignment at night or out of town. He always came to my rescue. He will go without hesitation.

When I started working at the Sowetan in 2004, I found him there. We worked for a couple of years, and he left to join City Press.

I later joined him at City Press, and he had the same work ethic. Lucky knew a lot of people, and he had incredible contacts.

I remember he was invited to Kenny Kunene’s 40th birthday party in Sandton and the king of sushi ate off from bikini-clad model. As a result, the City Press was the only publication that had the picture on Sunday that Lucky had taken.

When I had to assign Lucky on a job, and he had to cross an unfortunate situation, sometimes he will forget and miss those decisive moments of good images because he will be busy helping instead of taking photographs.  I had to always keep track of his activities, especially when he was out of town because he was a humanitarian.

One time as I was leaving my house going to the office and a suspicious guy outside my driveway and he had his wheel jerked up. I asked him why he parked right at my gate, and he said something about his car that I did not understand. When I got to the office, I told Lucky the incident. The following morning it happened again, and the same guy had parked next to my driveway. I immediately drove back to the house and called Lucky. He called a police superintendent in my area.

Within five minutes, I received a call from the superintendent. A police vehicle was dispatched to my house, and the guy removed from my driveway with a warning. I never saw that car again.

When I joined the Sowetan as a Picture Editor for months I did not understand him, he will be all over the place everywhere. People will also come to the office looking for him. If they did not find him then the receptionist will call me saying some people have been waiting for hours for Lucky. When I talk to them, they were there to thank him because for years they were trying to get ID documents and Lucky helped them.

Lucky was larger than life and an amazing human being. Sometimes we fought about unsatisfactory work with him, and he would not take it personally. Like any other human, he made mistakes but what a beautiful spirit he had.

Last week I received a frantic call from Lucky Morajane after he visited Nxumalo. He told me that Lucky was not well and asked if we could try and help him financially. The next morning, I was with him. He was in high spirit as always and telling me how he was fighting to stay alive. He spoke about some of his plans.

We then spoke briefly about getting some of his pictures sold to raise funds as he hinted that there was a shortfall from paying his medical bills, and it worried him. I was also talking to one of his close friends about fundraising for him because he needed funds every month to pay some bills. Our meeting was due on Wednesday because he promised me to be on his computer during the weekend and look for some images. At 00:12 on Monday morning 21 December 2020, I received a message from his friend and photographer Sphiwe Sibeko saying that Nxumalo was no more.

Considering his will and the determination I observed last week, I was convinced he will beat the disease.

I am now finding myself writing a tribute to him rather than a proposal that I have been preparing for days to raise funds for him. May his beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.

He will be dearly missed.

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113

Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852

Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972

Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610 9374

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022

Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za