South Africa’s Miriam Makeba Dies in Italy

South African singer Miriam Makeba died on Sunday night after collapsing as she left the stage following a performance in Italy, the country’s foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Monday.

“One of the greatest song stresses of our time, Miriam Makeba, has ceased to sing. Miriam Makeba, South Africa’s Goodwill Ambassador, died performing what she did best — an ability to communicate a positive message through the art of singing,” said Zuma.

“Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid colonialism through the art of song.”

The foreign ministry said the 76-year-old Makeba died at the Veneto Verde hospital near Naples after performing at the Castel Volturno.

“She collapsed as she was leaving the stage. She received paramedic assistance and was rushed to hospital where she unfortunately passed away,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“On behalf of our President Kgalema Motlanthe, our ambassadors and high commissioners stationed abroad, management and staff of the department of foreign affairs, we convey our heartfelt condolences to members of the bereaved family,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

Makeba, affectionately known as Mama Africa, sang about Africa’s struggles for independence.

Makeba, whose most famous hits included Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa) and Mailaka, died after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia, the Italian news agency said.

Miriam Zenzi Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932.

She grabbed international attention in 1959 when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa.

After that, she went to London where she met Harry Belafonte. He helped her get entry to the United States, where she released many of her famous songs.

She received a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording in 1966 with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba.

The album was about black South Africans living under apartheid.


The Court of Public Opinion

  • asantewa

    Thank you for helping to get the word out. Miriam was one of my sheroes.

    For my generation, the marriage between Miriam and Kwame Ture was not only the symbolic union of Africa and Black America but it was also a symbol of Black independence and defiance…a celebration of the struggle for freedom and self-determination for all Black people. With the joining of these two beautiful Black people there was nothing that we could not be accomplish.

    Now they are both gone. Miriam almost ten years to the day of Kwame’s passing (Kwame died Nov. 15, 1998). I know their marriage ended in divorce, but for many of us, it remained a symbol engendering the spirit of a generation.

    Well hopefully it is a new and better day for people of African descent and even though I tend to be a realist, I can’t help but contemplate the meaning of Mama Africa’s passing just at the time when a Son of Africa is about to become the most powerful man in the world. Perhaps her work here has been completed.