Published: Wed, July 17, 2019
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

RIP Juluka and Savuka's Johnny Clegg

RIP Juluka and Savuka's Johnny Clegg

Roddy Quin, manager, friend and family spokesman said in a press statement: "It is with enormous sadness that we confirm that Jonathan (Johnny) Clegg, OBE OIS succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 on the afternoon of 16 July 2019 at his family home in Johannesburg, South Africa".

Nicknamed the "White Zulu", he mastered the language, culture and high kicks of Zulu dance, creating two multi-racial bands in defiance of the segregationist laws of the apartheid-era government, which censored his work.

Clegg, a Grammy nominee and Billboard music award victor known for his fluent Zulu which he mixed into his traditional folk music known as mbaqanga, was also a vocal critic of the apartheid government that ruled South Africa until 1994.

One of his best-known songs is "Asimbonanga", which means "We've never seen him" in Zulu.

Clegg - a white man who learnt to speak and sing in Zulu - became a symbol of democratic South Africa and was chosen to sing at Nelson Mandela's memorial service in 2013.

"We wish his family, friends and fans our deepest and heartfelt condolences during this time".

"He suffered harassment and arrest by the apartheid regime for his action and working with with Africans in his band Juluka and later Savuka".


The fall of apartheid in 1994 was like a rebirth for South Africans, Clegg said in a 2002 interview, and brought new challenges. The ANC join many South Africans in paying tribute to this music icon who became a beacon of hope and inspired many artists and individuals in our country and overseas. His mother was a jazz singer from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia).

The South African government and fellow musicians paid tribute to Clegg as a musician and an activist.

In his early teens in Johannesburg, he came across Zulu migrant workers playing street guitar and started taking lessons. The group's 1987 album Third World Child sold over one million copies internationally.

Clegg was a singer, songwriter, dancer, anthropologist, musical activist.

In 2012 he received the Order of Ikhamanga from the South African government.

Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and has spoken about the effect the disease on his outlook on life.

He is survived by his wife Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron.

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