A2 size Prof Nyembezi

Prof Cyril Lincoln Sibusiso Nyembezi was born on 6 December 1919 in Babanango. His parents were Rev Irvine Nelson Nyembezi, a Methodist Church Minister, and Evelyn Kate Nyembezi (born Tshabalala).

He attended school in Vryheid and Driefontein near Ladysmith, and thereafter went for teacher training in Edendale and Adams College (Amanzimtoti). He taught in Newcastle and Dundee, and after completion of his BA Honours degree, joined the Department of African Languages at the University of Witwatersrand, where he worked until he joined the University of Fort Hare in 1954. He worked in Fort Hare until 1959, when he left due to the then government’s Bantu Education policies. Having left Fort Hare, he joined Shuter & Shooter Publishers in 1960, where he worked until retirement.

Prof Nyembezi is regarded as one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. Analysts list him as one of the top three (3) Zulu language writers of the past century. This is evidenced not only by the number of books he wrote, compiled and edited, as well as the variety thereof, but also by the recognition of this achievement by a number of different entities.

His literary work covered a wide scope, namely:

1. The Grade 1-7 school readers named iGoda, which were prescribed in primary schools for a period of over 20 years. These readers enabled learners to better understand their cultural heritage and norms, through folklore utilized in the books.

2. Izibongo Zamakhosi, a collection of praise poems of Zulu and Swati Kings, has the effect of preserving history for generations to come. It is a well-known fact that these praise poems are primarily based on actual historical events. It has been a prescribed high school book.

3. Zulu Proverbs, which seeks to explain the origins and meaning of a wide range of Zulu Proverbs that had been passed from generation to generation through oral tradition. This book ensures that this information will be preserved for generations to come, and has been a prescribed book for university students over a long period of time.

4. Uhlelo LwesiZulu, a Zulu language manual for secondary school students. A book of this nature equips students with the ability to grasp the principles of Zulu grammar and spelling, thus ensuring preservation of the language. This book has, for a long time, been a secondary school/high school prescribed book for Zulu in South Africa, as well as “O” Level Ndebele in Zimbabwe. The book has, in the past, also been prescribed for Zulu language students in eSwatini.

5. Zulu/English Dictionary (in collaboration with GR Dent), to assist both Zulu and English speakers understand each other’s languages.

6. Learn Zulu and Learn More Zulu, two books whose primary objective is to assist English speakers to Learn Zulu. In a country like South Africa, where it was not “fashionable” for English-speakers to learn African languages, these books played a big role in reversing that trend. It is a popular learning aid for non-Zulu speakers who are studying Zulu.

7. Inqolobane yeSizwe (in collaboration with Otty Nxumalo) sought to preserve knowledge of customs, practices, idioms, proverbs, as well as explain the historical way of life, including tools and utensils used in the past. It was a prescribed book for high school Zulu.

8. The novels, Ubudoda Abukhulelwa, Mntanami Mntanami, as well as Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu, promote the language in a variety of ways. They have been used as prescribed literature books for students, and can be used by both students, as well as adults, for leisure reading and better understanding of the Zulu language. Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu is currently a prescribed Grade 10 Zulu Literature book (2019)

9. Isichazamazwi saNamuhla naNgomuso is a book that enables the “modern, urban Zulu” to understand Zulu words and concepts.

10. Usizo eNkingeni yokufunda nokubhala isiZulu is a manual targeting Zulu-speakers who are not fluent in English, helping them to cope with the current environment, where English is the dominant language of doing business and official communication.

11. Lafa elihle kakhulu: The translation of the world-renowned book, “Cry the Beloved Country”, written by Alan Paton, has enabled Zulu language speakers to access the content of the original English book in their own language

His literary work has been has been recognized in a variety of ways, namely:

a) He was awarded honorary doctorates for his work, during his lifetime, by the University of Zululand; Rhodes University; University of the Witwatersrand; and the University of Natal (as it was then known)

b) Two of his novels were adapted for radio by the SABC. One of them, Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu, was also adapted for Television as a series

c) He was awarded the “BW Vilakazi Award for Literature” for his book “Isichazamazwi saNamuhla naNgomuso”

d) Usiba Writers Association named an Award after him (“Sibusiso Nyembezi Award for Anthologies”), in recognition of his contribution and achievements.

e) His novel, Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu achieved international recognition when it was selected as one of “The 100 Best Books of African Literature in the 20th Century”, out of an original list of 1521 nominations.

f) Six of Prof Nyembezi’s Classics have been in print for over 50 years- a rare feat in the field of Zulu literature. These are Zulu Proverbs, Uhlelo LwesiZulu, Izibongo Zamakhosi, Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu, Compact Zulu/English Dictionary, and Inqolobane yeSizwe.

His life was not only limited to his literary work. This is evidenced by the following community activities and recognition:

i) On 25 April 1997 the Pietermaritzburg-Msunduzi Transitional Local Authority awarded him the Civic Honour of “Outstanding Citizen”, for both his literary work, as well as his contribution to the community

ii) He was a founder Management Committee member (1965) at Edendale Lay Ecumenical Centre, a community development centre, which has, as one of its primary objectives, the promotion of self-reliance within the black community

iii) He was also active in church. Nzondelelo, the Methodist Church mission society, honoured him with the position of honorary life president, and also named its office building in Pietermaritzburg after him

iv) In 2005, the Msunduzi Municipality renamed Symonds Centre, a landmark Pietermaritzburg building, Professor Nyembezi Centre, in his honour, posthumously.

He married Muriel Susan Deliwe Nyembezi (born Kazi) in 1950, and they were blessed with 5 children, one of whom has passed on.

Prof Nyembezi passed on in June 2000.