President, nation mourns loss of a prolific poet

President, nation mourns death of poet 'Bra Willie' Kgositsile

President Jacob Zuma has expressed his sadness at the death of revered poet, Professor Keorapetse "Bra Willie" Kgositsile, who died on Wednesday morning after a short illness.

William Keorapetse Kgositsile

"Today our country mourns the sad passing of one of the giants of our liberation struggle, who was renowned for his accomplishment as well in the education, arts and culture sectors.

"He was highly regarded even beyond the borders of our country and was a celebrated arts intellectual in the continent. We extend our deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace," Zuma said in a statement.

Tributes and messages of condolences and strength poured in throughout Wednesday afternoon for the liberation struggle stalwart and writer, who left an undeniable mark in the world of arts, literature and culture, among other fields.

Parliament said in a statement that Kgositsile's legacy will inspire future generations to use culture to develop South Africa.

"Professor Kgositsile… distinguished himself as an academic, a poet par excellence, and a champion for freedom and social justice throughout his life in South Africa while in exile in many countries of the world and on his return home.

"Through his sharp and progressive pen, he contributed [to] cutting open the oppressive blanket of the apartheid system to keep the liberation spirit burning in the country and abroad," spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

Kgositsile was inaugurated in 2006 as South Africa's first National Poet Laureate. Two years later, he was bestowed the honourable Order of Ikhamanga by former president, Kgalema Motlanthe.

The ANC also mourned the poet's passing."The tapestry of South African cultural life is all the poorer at his loss and the ANC joins all South Africans in mourning the passing of this great man," spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement. The party called on the government to make more African literature available in South African schools.

They acknowledged his contribution and dedication to the apartheid struggle, even while he was in foreign countries in exile.

Described as a cultural activist, leading intellectual and a literary giant, Kgositsile was also renowned for his role in politics with the Gauteng ANC stating that he was a founding member of the ANC Veterans League.

He was also a lecturer, a founding member of the ANC’s Department of Education in 1977 and Department of Arts and Culture in 1983.

Before his death, 79-year-old Kgositsile was working in the office of Gauteng provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation's trustees and staff members said their thoughts were with his family, friends and comrades.

"We will miss him," foundation chief executive Sello Hatang said.

"His phone call was the first one I received after the announcement of my appointment back in 2013.  His words of encouragement and wisdom then have stayed with me."

Hatang added that Kgositsile had been a trusted presence in almost every process designed by progressive formations in South Africa post-1990 in imagining a "post-apartheid".

The foundation had worked with him on several projects, Hatang said.

"We will remember him as much for his analyses as for his humour and his willingness to hold up a mirror rather than argue for a particular position."

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