Poet and apartheid activist Don Mattera dies on Mandela Day

Seasoned South African poet and apartheid activist Omaruddin “Don” Mattera died on Monday of an undisclosed illness.

Mattera, who passed away at his home in Protea North, Soweto will be buried later in the day in accordance to Muslim rites. The funeral procession will leave Protea North for Westpark Cemetery early in the evening where he will be buried.

Mattera underwent a medical check-up at the Military One Hospital in Pretoria a few weeks ago and was recovering at home. Jenny Jephta, chair of the Don Mattera Legacy Foundation, which is entrusted with the preservation of Mattera’s literacy works and legacy, said the news of his death came as a shock.

“We have lost an icon in the literary and arts fraternity. Don’s passing will leave a literary void not just here at home but globally. We are still celebrating Dr Mattera receipt and the unveiling of the star at the entrance of The Joburg Theatre, which celebrated 60 years over the weekend, and now he is gone,” said Jephta.

Born Donato Francisco Mattera, the 87-year-old poet and apartheid activist authored a powerful memoir titled Memory is The Weapon, for which he was awarded the Steve Biko Prize.

A popular motivational speaker, Mattera also worked as a journalist for The Sowetan and The Weekly Mail and helped set up the Union Of Black Journalists and the Congress of South African Writers.

In May, he was honoured with the 2022 Artfluence Human Rights Award for his commitment to human rights, activism, and community development.

His death comes a day after the burial of another apartheid stalwart, ANC deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte, who was laid to rest on Sunday at Westpark Cemetery.

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