He was a champion
of indigenous languages
when it was difficult
to be so under apartheid
(tribalising and ruled)

(no aspersions cast
on the grandstanding
and the point-scoring
so fashionable post-1994)

He was a champion
one Joseph Shabalala
founder and leader
of Ladysmith Black Mambazo
(he grounded in his community)

and World Mother-tongue Day goes
as our own local high-ups
deal Gender-Based Violence
a low blow of their own
(is there no harmony here)

elsewhere on morning radio
someone says LBM
made the country famous
(this in the throes of the abuse
of women and the girl-child)

He was a champion
of indigenous languages
(like we saw the Goethe Institute
celebrating in the country-beloved)

Though Shabalala and the group’s
mid-1980s collaboration
(Homeless with Paul Simon)
raised many an eyebrow

He was a champion
we get to hear
at his passing

Not any the sooner

The country’s emperor jives and sings the praises of Joseph Shabalala, at the Ladysmith Black Mambazo leader’s funeral.