Poet, activist ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile dies aged 79

Keorapetse Kgositsile Picture Credit: Gallo Images

The ANC in Johannesburg has on Wednesday confirmed the passing of National Poet Laureate, Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile at age 79.

Renowned for his exceptional works in literature and poetry, Kgositsile passed away at the Milpark Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Kgositsile was a prominent member of the ANC and figure in the anti-apartheid struggle.

His career began as a journalist for the anti-apartheid publication New Age where he contributed both journalistically as well as through poetry.

In 1961 “Bra Willie” as he was affectionately known, went into an exile in the United States as well as Tanzania which would last 29 years.

During his time in exile, he studied across a number of prestigious universities across the U.S. including Columbia University, Lincoln University, University of New Hampshire and Pennsylvania University.

At Columbia University, he studied towards a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and published his first collection of poems called, Spirits Unchained. After graduating in 1971 he remained in the U.S. and became a fixture of the black American underground Jazz and poetry scene that was bubbling in Harlem, New York.

In 1975 Kgositsile returned to Africa to take up a teaching post at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It was during this same year that he got married to current Speaker of the National Assembly and former National Chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete.

Kgositsile eventually returned back to South Africa in 1990.

In 2006, he was awarded the National Poet Laureate Award for his poetry’s contribution
poetry to society.

In 2008 he was presented with the Order of Ikhamanga (silver) by then President Kgalema Motlanthe for “his excellent achievements in the field of literature and using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world,”

Kgositsile is survived by his three children, two boys and one girl.

-TNA Reporter