Tributes flow at memorial service for Bra Willie

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete at the official memorial service for Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile in the Johannesburg City Hall 
Picture: Alon Skuy

Politicians‚ poets‚ musicians‚ friends and family gathered in the Johannesburg City Hall yesterday for the state memorial service for laureate poet and political activist Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile‚ affectionately known as “Bra Willie”.

In a moving message of condolence‚ Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane‚ a friend who met Kgositsile in the 1970s‚ said she would remember him as a man who had clarity of thought.

“I will miss his strength of mind‚ infectious laughter‚ and smile. He truly was one of a kind,” she said. Mokone-Matabane reminisced about how Kgositsile would say: “I don’t have time for fools.”

In his eulogy‚ ANC Gauteng provincial committee member Parks Tau compared Kgositsile’s “epic poetry” to the works of Pablo Neruda of Chile and Jose Marti of Cuba.

University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala said a hall at the institution would be named after Kgositsile.

Marwala said Kgositsile had spent a great deal of time sharing his ideas with UJ students.

Poetry by the likes of Lebo Mashile and Sello Maake Ka-Ncube contributed to a solemn and yet jovial mood in a hall full of iconic contributors to arts and culture‚ and intelligentsia.

Kgositsile’s 1971 poetry anthology My Name is Africa is one of his most influential works. He was South Africa’s only national poet laureate.

Kgositsile died in Johannesburg on January 3 at the age of 79 after a short illness.

The “people’s poet” is survived by his wife‚ Baby Dorcas Kgositsile‚ seven children and several grandchildren.

He will be buried on Tuesday in Marks Park in Emmarentia.

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