President Cyril Ramaphosa has conveyed his condolences to the friends and family of veteran actress Nomhle Nkonyeni and music legend Johnny Clegg. 

Both Nkonyeni and Clegg received the National Order of Ikhamanga, awarded to South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism or sport.

Clegg, 66, died on Tuesday at his home in Johannesburg after battling pancreatic cancer. Nkonyeni, 77, died on July 10 after a short illness.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said, “South Africa is a better place today due to the courage, resilience and irrepressible creativity of these two special icons from whom we are now taking our leave.”

South Africa – Pretoria – 25 April 2019 – President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver to Nomhle Nkonyeni at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. South Africa. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Nkonyeni’s career as an actor spanned 55 years. She was “as an actor who performed ground-breaking anti-apartheid theatre and mastered roles on stage and screen nationally and internationally”.

“Mama Nomhle’s charisma and courage made her an extraordinary artist and compatriot who committed herself to the liberation of all South Africans and the broadening of South Africa’s cultural richness. She overcame the barriers of race and gender imposed by apartheid, to become a cultural icon, who was duly honoured with the National Order of Ikhamanga,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa also offered his condolences to Clegg’s family, friends and followers 

“A beloved, inspirational and heroic voice has fallen silent and leaves all of us bereft of an exceptional compatriot and icon of social cohesion and non-racialism,” he said.

Johnny Clegg died of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday. Picture: Instagram

Clegg was an award winning artist who sold more than five million albums in his more than four decade career.

“Johnny Clegg’s special relationship with Sipho Mchunu in Juluka, as well as with Dudu Zulu in Savuka, gave apartheid-era South Africa a window on the non-racial South Africa we were determined to achieve.

“Johnny Clegg will always live on in our hearts and in our homes as we replay his stirring blend of cultural celebration and political resistance. We have lost a special patriot.”

Johnny Clegg during a Durban concert at the Exhibition Centre. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency/ANA

-ANA, editing by Emsie Ferreira