PICS: Xolani Gwala's humanity and respect lauded at funeral in Impendle
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Durban - A gentle giant who defied all the odds to become a broadcast colossus is how mourners described the late Xolani Gwala, during the special provincial funeral service at his village of Impendle, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, on Saturday.
The scores of mourners who filled a thousand-seater marquee included ministers, politicians, lawyers, radio personalities, journalists and community members.
On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared Gwala’s send-off a Special Provincial Funeral Category 2.
Gwala, 44, succumbed to colon cancer last Friday after battling the disease for two years. At the time of his death, he was a breakfast show host at Johannesburg-based commercial radio station 702. He had also worked for SABC TV and radio as a news reader and a host of current affairs programmes.
After being diagnosed with cancer two years ago, he became an activist and pledged his support to fight cancer by bringing about easy access to tests and medication.
Primedia Group chief executive Omar Essack said the station would keep Gwala’s show to honour him and ensure his dream to help the underprivileged with cancer medication was fulfilled.
He lauded Gwala for remaining humble despite the praise and fame he received in the media fraternity.
“His legacy is known to the media but it did not end there. He became the fighter for those who did not have the privilege he had.
“He used his influence to inform and educate the public about cancer and he was committed to its programmes.
“People change but he never changed. He never lost touch of the people he represented. It was very brave of him to come back on radio after his diagnosis.
“We kept his name attached to the show because we know how strong and determined he was. This is a true son of South Africa,” said Essack.
Gwala’s widow, Peggy-Sue Khumalo, through her “last love letter” that was read by a family friend during the service, committed to establish the Xolani Gwala Foundation that will enable easy access to test and cancer medication to under- privileged people and journalists.
SABC regional manager Busani Mthembu commended Gwala for his professionalism and humanity.
“He always put his listeners first and he liked shows that helped the public. His activism after he found out about cancer was most notable. My plea is that we continue and make efforts to make access to cancer medication easy,” said Mthembu.
Gwala’s associates and friend advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC said the broadcaster fought relentlessly.
“When I paid him a visit in Israel, we spoke about death and he was not afraid. His humanity and respect put him where he was. He put his village on the map,” said Sikhakhane.
Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Gauteng Premier David Makhura were some of the politicians who spoke glowingly of Gwala and his professionalism.
Makhura thanked the village of Impendle for raising Gwala to become an inspiration to many.
Gwala leaves his wife, Peggy-Sue, four daughters, his parents Khethezakhe and Thombo Gwala, and his five siblings.