As we celebrate 23 years since South Africa’s first democratic elections, it’s important to recognise that freedom in South Africa was achieved through the work of many groups, and individuals, not just those involved in politics. While we would certainly not be where we are today without our many freedom fighters, often it was artists, and particularly musicians, who were able to rouse the emotions of the people, and bring about action.
Zibokwakhe Mnyandu, better known as Phuzekhemisi, is a maskandi musician known for telling it like it is. Through his music Phuzekhemisi has questioned the motives of traditional leaders, criticised the South African government of the day, and also where he felt it necessary, called for peace. In the early 1990s South Africa stood at a cross roads – there was unrivalled violence in KwaZulu-Natal, and the tension could be felt across the country – things could have gone either way, but thanks in part to artists like Phuzekhemisi, South Africa’s transition to democracy was far less bloody than it could have been. Through his songs, the maskandi maestro spoke to the people, calling for peace and reconciliation.
See below to learn more about one of South Africa’s most powerful musical personalities, and the impact that his and other voices had on the struggle for freedom in South Africa.