Remembering Dumisa Ntuli

Matuma Letsoalo and Gugu Ndima remember ANC Gauteng spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli with fondness. (Gallo)

Matuma Letsoalo and Gugu Ndima remember ANC Gauteng spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli with fondness. (Gallo)

Dumisa Ntuli (or Dumi, as I used to call him) was one of the finest political communicators this country has ever produced. 

He died in a tragic car accident on February 8 near his home in Albertsdal in the East Rand. He was 47.

Ntuli’s untimely departure is a great loss not only to his family and the ANC-led alliance, but the country as a whole. 

Unlike some of his comrades in the ANC, Ntuli understood the importance of creating a working relationship with the media, irrespective of our differences on certain issues. He was readily available for interviews with journalists and would go an extra mile to provide background information on matters that we did not understand.

At the time of his passing, Ntuli was working as a spokesperson for the ANC in Gauteng. A well-rounded activist, Ntuli cut his political teeth as one of the founding members of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) in 1997. He served the student organisation in various capacities, including as a regional executive committee member in the East Rand region.

His passion for politics saw him becoming an active member of the South African Students Congress (Sasco) immediately after he enrolled for a degree at the University of Witwatersrand in the late 1990s.

On completion of his studies at Wits, he was appointed spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). He later joined the Johannesburg City Council as a manager in the office of the ANC chief whip.

ANC provincial secretary Hope Papo described Ntuli as a selfless and committed servant of his movement and his people. “His tireless spirit has left an inedible mark in the workings of Sisulu House, the provincial home of our movement. His unassuming, courteous and kindly nature touched all those who were fortunate to meet him and for this, amongst his many other noble qualities, he will be sorely missed,” said Papo.

Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said Ntuli would forever occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of metalworkers for his sterling role in building Numsa into a formidable force. 

“We find solace in that as he departs from our midst, he will join his brother, a former Numsa official, comrade Sam Ntuli, who was assassinated 24 years ago, during the height of political violence between Inkatha and ANC in East Rand,” said Ngobese. – Matuma Letsoalo

Death indeed isn’t courteous; it has no announcement yet its impact leaves us in despair.

Comrade Dumisa, your sudden and abrupt death is as instant as the deafening silence after lights have shut down. Your absence leaves an echo as hollow as an empty house. 

It’s one thing to accept death, yet it’s another to accept how death chose to whisk you from us all. 

I could narrate a story about your life as an activist; amplify the amazing words which have filled the pages of many in your field to describe you as a spokesperson, yet this would rob me of a chance to do justice to how you touched each life. For as long as I have known you, I can’t picture anger in sight. Charisma, humility and life come to mind.

Commitment to everything you did goes without question, whether executed in distinction or not, it was always executed with an open heart. The humour you deposited in situations and times where moments were grim with bleakness and tension, made every person you worked with find comfort in your presence. 

Your [aim] wasn’t to perfect but [rather to] ensure that everyone had a chance to participate. Without your support, confidence and guidance, we wouldn’t be where we are today, as elitism, exclusivity and isolation were never in your vocabulary. 

You saw potential and light in others when they were lingering in self-doubt, helping comrades and friends move from hopelessness to self-realisation and resuscitated hope. 

Your departure leaves an empty space, not just in the organisation, but in society and in the hearts of people you touched.

Every journalist looked forward to a moment with you because they knew that beyond the propaganda and spinning, they had a sincere friend. Seeing your office locked with no prospect of seeing you walk in and out again makes this departure final. Yet we keep close memoirs of a man who lived each day to the fullest, despite all odds.

A man devoted and committed to the organisation he served.

A journey so abruptly shattered – God knows why it had to be. We can only take refuge and comfort [in] knowing that we were part of your extended family.

The light and humour you always brought [to] a room, in a hall, in situations at times distraught, will hopefully comfort our fallible hearts in this time of grief. 

A brother, a comrade, a friend, you have been to many; a fallen hero, devoted servant of the people you remain to us.

A loss beyond words for your family you leave behind; a gain for the angels in the heavens gazing from above. 

We have faith that in this tragedy you will reunite with your brother, Sam Ntuli, with open arms. [Sam] would surely be proud of everything you are, especially preserving his memory firmly for generations to come.

We can only do justice as we try to move on by passing on your zealous spirit, ensuring that we never close doors for those who seek opportunity, attempting to escape their harsh realities.

The revolutionary gods have gained a spokesperson who fondly spoke for the voiceless, who remained humble and accessible to everyone without prejudice. I have no doubt that as you walk in the gates, the first impression will be the dress sense which was always distinct amongst peers and always left others in awe.

You will be missed dearly for years to come, but your pen will continue to preserve a legacy started from humble beginnings. Your voice will echo beyond this life, and your children and children’s children will always know that they had a devoted father who served his people and gave a voice to the voiceless. – Gugu Ndima



Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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