The biggest names in gospel music have lauded Neyi Zimu, who died on Wednesday at the age of 49, as a powerhouse in the genre.
Last month, Zimu was admitted to hospital for treatment of mycosis fungoides, a blood cancer that affected his skin, and underwent chemotherapy. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Nellie Sibisi-Zimu, and three children.
In a statement, award-winning gospel ensemble Joyous Celebration described Zimu as “the type that would leave an indelible footprint on all... stages”. “God brought you our way in our formative years musically when we started Family Factory; you blossomed and established your brand and sound. As we saw you flourish and transition to your calling, and go on to many other platforms, we were not surprised because we saw it coming,” read the statement.
Zimu started his journey in the gospel industry in 1992 and had, in recent years, worked closely with his mentor, renowned gospel musician Benjamin Dube.
On Thursday Dube tweeted: “For I know not what to pray for.... struggling to process.”
Zimu, who performed in many countries, is celebrated across Africa and beyond for his hit songs that include Sinenqaba and Modimo Ke Eo.
UK-based gospel musician Carole Nyakudya said: “My prayers go out to his family and my heart goes out to his children. Let us remember him for his unparalleled contribution to gospel music in Africa, his generosity of spirit in his quest to heal the world, and the joy he brought to gospel music lovers across Africa and beyond.
“I feel blessed to have met him once when he came to Birmingham. No artist will ever take his place. His star will shine forever.”
Gospel star Dr Tumi tweeted: “You represented the kingdom so well. Thank you for the contribution you have made and how you have touched our lives. Forever loved and your ministry will live on.”
Zimu recently called off a performance in Polokwane due to ill health. He had previously performed at EFF events.
The party thanked him for his undying support through prayer and music.
“At our rallies, he ministered and always told us to trust in God. That was his message, leading us at all times to confess to the truth of ages, ‘In Jehovah we trust,’” read a statement from the EFF.
Former Joyous Celebration lead singer, Mkhululi Bhebhe, described Zimu as “one of the most sincere worshippers”, saying he would be greatly missed, and remembered.
“On the few occasions, I had the honour of sharing the stage with him, it was plain to see that the man had a heart for God, not only in the way he delivered his music, but even in the way he spoke on a one-on-one basis. What a legend,” Bhebhe said.
Zimu’s first solo album, Excited, was released in 2001, and his most recent one, the much-loved The Waiting is Over, in 2017.
For 13 years, he doubled up as a pastor after starting All Nations Revival Ministries in Midrand. At the pinnacle of his career, he featured on the gold-selling, Spirit of Praise in 2012, a live recording at the Carnival City big top arena. The recording won an award at the South African Music Awards.