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'Nakasa reburial closes a tragic chapter in SA history'

Nathi Mthethwa has hailed Nakasa’s reburial as a momentous occasion for the country.

FILE: Prominent anti-apartheid journalist Nat Nakasa was finally laid to rest on 13 September in his hometown of Durban. Picture: Dirco.

DURBAN, KwaZulu-Natal - Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the reburial of anti-apartheid journalist Nat Nakasa on Saturday has closed a tragic chapter in South Africa's history.

Mthethwa has hailed Nakasa's reburial as a momentous occasion for the country both culturally and spiritually.

Nakasa, who worked for Drum Magazine, the Rand Daily Mail and Illanga newspapers among others, was forced to leave South Africa on an exit visa when the apartheid government refused to grant him a passport after he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Grammy Award winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform a song dedicated to Nakasa during his reburial service at the Durban City Hall on 13 September, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. Picture: AFP.

Nakasa died after falling from a building in New York in an apparent suicide in 1965.

Veteran South African journalist Joe Thloloe says Nat Nakasa agonised over his decision to leave South Africa in the mid-1960s, but in the end chose freedom over being banned by the apartheid government.

The quest to return the exiled writer's remains to South Africa has been ongoing since his death at the age of 28, but bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of funds have stymied attempts over the years.

Mthethwa saluted the late Nakasa. He says Nakasa was an intellectual who embodied the phrase 'the pen is mightier than the sword'.

He told those who came to the Durban City Hall to bid farewell to the prominent journalist, and that today also marks a historical and cultural turning point.

Mthethwa added Nakasa had the power to inspire many through his writing.

This Durban teenager agrees.

"He is someone we could look up to as the youth because he is actually an example of the South African identity and South African heritage."

The Department of Arts and Culture's Lisa Combrinck came to bid farewell to the prominent journalist who touched so many lives.

"He combined fiction with non-fiction, but he was also an up and coming intellectual."

Veteran journalist Joe Tholoe says Nakasa was a visionary.

"He could write and therefore could express himself in his writings. I remember he was quite young and he had this very boyish face that didn't quite fit the stereotype of the hard drinking journalist of the time."

Hundreds attended the memorial service, including KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, SA National Editors' Forum executive director Mathatha Tsedu, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, numerous well known local personalities and Nakasa's family.

During Nakasa's time in New York he wrote for various publications including the _ New York Times_.

Poll bearers place into the ground the coffin and remains of journalist Nathaniel 'Nat' Nakasa during a reburial at the Heroes' Acre Cemetery on 13 September. Picture: AFP.

'PLEASE FORGIVE ME, NAT NAKASA'

Veteran journalist and political commentator Allister Sparks wrote in a tribute to Nakasa, published in the Independent Online, "Nat died of a broken heart. This talented young man man loved this country despite apartheid.

"He loved it because it was HIS country; he loved it in all its physical beauty and inhuman ugliness; because he knew it, he understood its people, all of them, and because he could communicate with them in a way few have ever been able to across the colour line.

"That is what inspired him, gave him life. He didn't want to go. But I persuaded him to. Because he was so talented. I thought he would flower in freedom. Instead he died.

"He died of frustration and disillusionment. He was disillusioned because he didn't find freedom in the US as he had expected; he found racism instead, something he had thought was uniquely evil to South Africa."

Nakasa's writings were compiled into a book _ The World of Nat Nakasa_. The Print Media Association, the South African Nieman Alumni, and the South African National Editors' Forum have established an annual award for courageous journalism, which is named after him.

South African Police Service members carry the coffin containing the remains of Nakasa upon arrival at the King Shaka International airport on 19 August, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. Picture: AFP.

Today for many who knew Nakasa, it's about finding closure.

Mary Papayya from the 'Nat Nakasa Bring Home a Hero Project' says his family and friends have been waiting for this moment for years.

"Nearly 50 years later we're doing what Nat asked for. It was always his wish that he must be brought back home. When you speak to friends who knew him and his family, they say his last wish was to come back home."