Jonas Gwangwa’s kids share fond memories of their late dad

The late Jonas Gwangwa. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane

The late Jonas Gwangwa. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane

Published Jan 25, 2021


Johannesburg - The one person who knew international icon Jonas Gwangwa inside and out was his wife and life partner Mme Violet Gwangwa.

Before Mme Violet closed her eyes for the last time on January 6, she was the matriarch of the large family whose foundation lay in the relationship Ntate Gwangwa had with her.

The couple met in 1951 and made their love story work through exile, living in various countries and not seeing each other for several years before finally being able to be a full family unit, children included, in the 1990s. Mme Violet was the glue that kept them together.

“He is a father and made a home for the children, that was the most important thing for him to achieve. He rose above the industry challenges to be a caring father,” said Mme Violet during an interview with The Star in 2019.

Mme Violet, then an 81-year-old, was vibrant and still had a sparkle in her eye when she spoke about her husband who had taken ill and was bedridden.

Gwangwa’s children have fond memories of him being the best dad he could possibly be under the circumstances of his travelling life.

His daughter Mpho, during that same interview, shared her fond memories of how her father came from Zimbabwe to Zambia to bring her the perfect shoes for her wedding and to walk her down the aisle. The night before the wedding her father had sat her down to give her guidance on a happy marriage.

Gwangwa’s son, Malose, shared many memories of being in the kitchen with his dad teaching him how to cook delicacies. His youngest daughter Keituletse shared the his love for music.

A man of many talents including a knack for style, Gwangwa owned more than 100 ties and taught his family to appreciate looking and feeling good.

His lifelong career as a trombonist, musician, songwriter and producer gained him many accolades including nominations and awards from the academy awards, the Baftas, Emmys, local lifetime achievement awards and honorary doctorates.

His family attests to his love for his country and culture and carrying that with him wherever he went. From his life-changing work with the Amandla Cultural Ensemble for the Struggle for South Africa’s freedom to his later years working with the Johnny Mekoa Music Academy of Gauteng, he always instilled a love for South African culture.

When news of Mme Violet’s death was announced several weeks ago, her family were not sure how Gwangwa would take it.

“They were together for a lifetime, they were best friends. So the last two weeks were difficult for Papa. Even though he was with us physically, we could tell that emotionally he wasn’t with us. At some stage he would be asking us about mom’s whereabouts and I would have to tell him that I would check for her,” said Mojalefa Gwangwa who managed and organised his father’s gigs. Mojalefa would then call one of his sisters to ask what he should do when his father asked these questions.

Mojalefa said that his father left this earth peacefully on Saturday, even though they were still recovering from their mother’s death just 17 days ago.

“He gave us that smile every now and then before resting. But we could tell that he was not okay. As a family we were already getting ready for the second impact because we knew it was coming,” Mojalefa said.

The Gwangwas have always been intent on keeping their father’s legacy alive. Plans are in place for a biography of their father as well as the love story of their parents. They have also been vocal about radio stations playing more from their father’s discography as he had a wealth of music that had received little airplay.

“We would like to thank everybody for the support, South Africans for supporting him. His last award was from the SA Traditional Music Awards in Mbombela.

“He would always say how much he appreciated receiving awards from home, that always touched him.”

Messages of condolences have continued to pour in for Ntate Jonas and Mme Violet.

“Through his trombone that reverberated across the world he made us proud as a cultural ambassador during the dark days of apartheid.

“He is a recipient of the SA Music Awards Lifetime Achievement (Sama6) in recognition of his work that spans decades. We as the Recording Industry of SA send our condolences to the Gwangwa family, friends, his supporters and the music-loving public of South Africa and the world. It’s indeed the end of a glorious era,” said RiSA chief executive Nhlanhla Sibisi.

President Cyril Ramaphosa tweeted: “A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest; the trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force.”

Mojalefa said that the family would be announcing the final funeral arrangements on Monday.

The Star

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