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Thokozani Mandlenkosi Ernest Nene (Posthumous) (1944 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Thokozani Mandlenkosi Ernest Nene (Posthumous) (1944 - ) Awarded for:
His outstanding contribution in enriching the isiZulu language and culture, and revolutionary invention of new lexicon in isiZulu.

Profile of Thokozani Mandlenkosi Ernest Nene

Thokozani Mandlenkosi Ernest Nene, famously and affectionately known as “Gxaba Lembadada”, was born in Kwa Hlabisa, on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal on 19 September 1944. 

Before this great cultural scholar and repository of isiZulu history, there were no isiZulu words for “AIDS” or “infrastructure”, “Ingcu¬lazi” and “Ingqalasizinda” respectively, as they are recognised today. Dr Nene attended Eshowe Government School and obtained his Matric Certificate in 1965. He furthered his studies at the University of Zululand, Ongoye, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967. In 2001, he obtained a Doctor’s Degree in Philosophy at the same institution. 

In 1971, Dr Nene joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as news reader translating from Afrikaans and English to isiZulu for the then Radio Bantu station – which is now known as Ukhozi FM. He was at the forefront with live coverage of some of the important political developments of his time, including the Transkei independence in 1974, as well as when the homeland of Venda gained “independence” in a dramatic fashion in Thohoyandou. 

As a news reader, Dr Nene embellished relevant references in his news reading with parts of praise poems of the Zulu Kings such as Shaka, Dingane, Cetshwayo and others. He possessed subtle and appropriate names and references for almost all living things, famously referring to “Police” as “Imbokod’ebomvu” and “handcuffs” as “amasongo kasigonyela”. Dr Nene accomplished a great deal with his creative talent and this was to develop and immensely enrich the isiZulu language and culture, as well as more appre¬ciation of the rich and glorious Zulu history. As a news reader, he always intoned words of encouragement to the black youth to be proud of their history and to work hard to realise their worth as future leaders. 

After serving on the then Pan South African Language Board, he helped oversee the correct use and translation of many Zulu idioms and was both a source and a resource in the invention of a large number of Zulu words that have become part of modern society today. “Ingculazi” as we know and use it today belongs to that raft of vocabulary that Dr Nene invented. 

His knowledge and understanding of African cultures, especially Zulu practices, was so vast that he even knew how most of the names of the South African rivers and places came about. These include, but not limited to places and rivers such as Umlazi, Aman¬zimtoti, Umngeni and many others. 

With his understanding of many languages Dr Nene distinguished himself as an Interpreter at the Supreme Court when he was appointed in 2004. 

In 2006, Dr Nene was awarded with an award of Amaqhawe (heroes) of Ukhozi FM as well as the Veteran Newscaster Award. Dr Nene notably served for more than 20 years at Ukhozi FM, which had undergone name changes such as Radio Bantu in 1960 when it started, then Radio Zulu in 1975, and finally renamed Ukhozi FM in 1996 in line with the democratic principles of a new South Africa. 

He further wrote a book about Zulu culture and customs, which he intended to be published after he had passed on. The title of the book is Tapa Zingakewukeli – meaning one must grab knowledge while it is still there. Dr Nene was also famous for his ability to write and produce plays on air, and one of his most-loved plays on radio was named Isigcawu Senkantolo, literally meaning a court scene. 

In 2008, Dr Nene was honoured by the Muhle Museum – a museum about the struggles for dignity by ordinary people – as one of the eThekwini (Durban) Living Legends. Dr Nene passed away, on his birthday on 19 September 2008, at the age of 64. 

We are proud to honour Dr Thokozani Mandlenkosi Ernest Nene with the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze for his contribution to enriching African languages and his contribution to the development of our culture. 
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