No­body was will­ing to break the news to her

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - NOKUTHULA ZWANE nokuthula.zwane@inl.co.za

THE fam­ily of le­gendary Ray Chikapa Phiri feared telling his mother, 113-year-old Gogo Tha­bethe, about the death of her son.

The jazz leg­end died on Wed­nes­day morn­ing from lung can­cer.

But Gogo Tha­bethe heard only yes­ter­day, when the fam­ily fi­nally gath­ered the strength to break the news to her.

Fam­ily spokesper­son Paul Nkanyane said: “There is noth­ing dra­matic about how the fam­ily are feel­ing now, it’s even scary be­cause they are act­ing a lit­tle bit as if it’s nor­mal and noth­ing has hap­pened.

“I think it hasn’t yet dawned on them what has hap­pened,” said Nkanyane.

“… uGogo be­sis­aba ukhumt­shela. (We were afraid to tell Gogo (his mother).

“No one was will­ing to vol­un­teer to tell her. All along we were ex­pect­ing some­thing to hap­pen to her and not to Ray, be­cause she is not well and of course her ad­vanced age,” he added.

But even­tu­ally yes­ter­day morn­ing, the fam­ily met with the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment, who per­suaded them to tell Gogo Tha­bethe, as they feared the news could reach her one way or an­other.

“There was a del­e­ga­tion of pro­fes­sion­als from the so­cial depart­ment and the fam­ily to go and break the news to her,” said Nkanyane.

Phiri was one of 12 brothers and sis­ters, most of whom have passed away.

There are four sib­lings left, ac­cord­ing to the fam­ily spokesper­son.

Mean­while, the fam­ily and the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment have an­nounced de­tails of the jazz icon’s me­mo­rial and fu­neral ar­range­ments.

The pre­mier’s spokesper­son, Zi­bonele Mncwango, told The Star that del­e­gates led by Act­ing Pre­mier Re­filwe Mtshweni had vis­ited the Phiri fam­ily yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Mncwango, an of­fi­cial fu­neral, be­stowed on out­stand­ing and dis­tin­guished peo­ple, will be held.

The of­fi­cial fu­neral is specif­i­cally des­ig­nated by the pres­i­dent on re­quest by the pre­mier of a prov­ince, he ex­plained.

“After con­sul­ta­tion with the fam­ily, the gov­ern­ment plans to cover all fu­neral ar­range­ments,” Mncwango said.

“The fu­neral will be held at the 45 000-seater Mbombela Sta­dium,” he added.

“We are ex­pect­ing a large num­ber of peo­ple to come and bid farewell to him.

“We would like to be­lieve that peo­ple will come from all over Mpumalanga and across the coun­try,” said Mncwango.

The me­mo­rial ser­vice will be held on Thurs­day at the sta­dium, with the of­fi­cial pro­vin­cial fu­neral at the same venue next Satur­day.


BOND­ING: Mother of the late Ray Phiri, right, Gogo Tha­bethe, and her son in their home­town, Mpumalanga, six years ago.


CROONER: Ray Phiri do­ing what he loved best.


IL­LUS­TRI­OUS CA­REER: Ray Phiri was the found­ing mem­ber of The Can­ni­bals in the 1970s and then Stimela. Gold and plat­inum al­bums fol­lowed.

LOVED BY THE NA­TION: The jazz leg­end died on Wed­nes­day morn­ing of lung can­cer.

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