Family and friends gathered at the Rivonia Catholic Church for the memorial service of veteran radio personality Xolani Gwala who died at the age of 44 after succumbing to a lengthy battle with cancer. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
The life of veteran radio personality Xolani Gwala and his legacy in the South African journalism industry was honoured at an intimate memorial service in Sandton.

Gwala’s family and friends said their farewells and celebrated the Radio 702 talk-show host in a day of tears and a little laughter at Our Lady of Lourdes Rivonia Catholic Church in Rivonia on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old died last week after battling colon cancer for two years. In September 2017, Gwala confirmed that he had been diagnosed with the disease during an interview on the radio station.

Gwala’s wife, Peggy-Sue Khumalo, sobbed uncontrollably while her friend read a letter she had written to her late husband about their relationship and family.

“Xolani and I did not get nearly enough time together.

“In our second year of love and bliss cancer disrupted and rocked our world to its core,” Khumalo wrote in the letter.

She added that following his diagnosis, Gwala waged the biggest fight of his life, however, the cancer was aggressive and inevitably claimed him.

Gwala’s daughters Nobuhle and Siphosethu were by their mother’s side during the service and family member Sizwe Mhlongo read a special message on their behalf.

“Whenever we think of our dad the first thing that comes to mind is his contagious smile. He was a happy person who could make anyone, including us, smile from ear to ear,” Mhlongo read.

Notable figures who were present included First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe, Education Minister Blade Nzimande, veteran actress Lillian Dube, business personalities Basetsana Kumalo and Sizwe Nxasana, colleagues from the media, and some medical practitioners who treated Gwala at various hospitals.

Gwala's colleague Jonathan "Khabazela" Fairbairn shared his fondest memories working with Gwala and the “bromance” they had developed.

"Our friendship was such that he named me Khabazela. XG had absolutely no arrogance. He was kind and gentle. He never spoke a bad word about an individual,” he said.

The Gwala family announced that they would launch the Xolani Gwala Foundation with the purpose of cancer awareness.

The foundation will assist with access to testing for early detection and funding for treatment.

Another memorial service will be held in Randburg today at the Grace House Family Church.

He will be buried in his hometown of Impendle, west of Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.