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Sanef statement read at the Press Conference to receive the remains of Nat Nakasa back to S Africa

August 19 2014

Mam Gladys, it has been a long journey. Not just this one from New York to eThekwini, but from Nat’s departure, his tragic death, the hopelessness of his lying in a grave so far away, the hopes kindled by the world of SA journalism that said today was possible, the ups and downs of nearly twenty years of efforts to bring him home, the yearly rituals of the awards and the pain of remembering and wishing and hoping, to last week at Ferncliff cemetery and then today.

I can imagine your emotions and what it would have meant, mama, as you saw the plaque that simply stated, “Nathaniel Nakasa, Journalist, Nieman Fellow, South African”. I think, as Diana Ferris wrote about grandma Baartman in 1998 in the poem “Poem for Sara Baartman”, you too mama would have been saying to Nat:

“I have come to take you home, I have come to soothe your heavy heart
I offer my bosom to your weary soul
I will cover your face with the palms of my hands
I will run my lips over lines in your neck
I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you
and I will sing for you
for I have come to bring you peace.”

What remains beyond here are the rituals and ceremonies and festivities filled with tears and celebration. Tears of anger at the brutality of apartheid that could deny so young a soul a chance to learn and improve himself. Celebration of a short life, but a life whose impact, as Reverend Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo said on Friday, was eternal. But Nat is at peace now. When that plane touched down on Mother Africa today, peace for Nat reigned.

As the world of SA journalism, through Sanef and the Nieman Society of Southern Africa and Print and Digital Media SA, it is a proud moment that vindicates our efforts to keep his name alive through the years with the Nat Nakasa Award for Courageous Journalism.

It is also a moment for which the role of our government in making today and tomorrow until the 13th possible has to be acknowledged. Nat is our own as a nation, and all the efforts of so many in all levels of government and outside to made today possible show that we will indeed go to the end of the world to get our own back, to give peace to the wandering souls of South Africans lying in strange lands.

Praises must also go to the former Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile and former Premier of KwaZulu, Zweli Mkhize, who embraced the idea and gave it impetus on behalf of their respective governments. Minister Mthethwa, Premier Mchunu and Executive Mayor of eThekwini Nxumalo, please convey our heartfelt gratitude to your colleagues for assisting with this enormous task.