Nyembezi, C(yril) L(incoln) S(ibusiso) 1919-2000

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NYEMBEZI, C(yril) L(incoln) S(ibusiso) 1919-2000


Born December 6, 1919, in Babanango, Natal Province, South Africa; died June 25, 2000, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; son of a Methodist minister; married, c. 1950; wife's name, Muriel; children: four. Education: University of South Africa, B.A., 1946; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, B.A. (with honors), 1947, M.A. 1954.


Writer, editor, and teacher. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Department of Bantu Studies, lecturer, 1948-53; University of Fort Hare, 1955-59; Shuter & Shooter Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, editor.


Named Outstanding citizen, Pietermaritzburg Transitional Local Council, 1997.



Ubododa abukhulelwa (title means "When Boys Were Men"), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1953.

Mntanami! Mntanami! (title means "My Child! My Child!"), Lincroft Books (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1950, published as Ushicilelo lwesithathu, 1965.

Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu (title means "The Tycoon from Pietermaritzburg"), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1961.


Zulu Proverbs, Witwatersrand University Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1954, revised edition, 1963.

Uhelo lwesiZulu (Zulu language studies), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1956.

Learn Zulu, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1958.

Izibongo zamakhose, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1958.

(Translator) Alan Paton, Lafa elihle kakhulu (translation of Cry the Beloved Country), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1958.

(With O. E. H. Nxumalo) Ingolobane Yesizwe (title means "The Treasury of the Nation"), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1966.

(Compiler, with G. R. Dent) Scholar's Zulu Dictionary: English-Zulu, Zulu-English, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1969, reprinted, 1991.

Learn More Zulu, 2nd edition, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1990.

Uhelo Iwesxizulu, 5th edition, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1991.

AZ: Isichazimazwi sanamuhla nangomuso, Reach Out Publishers (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1992.

Usizo enkingeni yokufunda nokubhala isingisi (title means "Aid to Reading and Writing English"), Reach Out Publishers (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1993.


Imisebe yelanga (poetry), Afrikaanse Pers Boekhandel (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1959-61.

Imikhemezelo (poetry), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1963.

Amahlunga aluhlaza (poetry), Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1963.

Izimpophoma zomphefumulo, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1964.

Compact Zulu Dictionary: English-Zulu, Zulu-English, compiled by G. R. Dent, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1964, 6th revised and enlarged edition, 1995.

Compact Setswana Dictionary: English-Setswana, Setswana-English, compiled by G. R. Dent, translated by F.T. Haasbroek and C.M. Haasbroek, Shuter & Shooter (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1994.

Also contributor to journals, including Bantu Education Journal, African Studies, and Review of Zulu Literature.


Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu was adapted for television and radio.


A prominent writer in the Zulu language and a dedicated proponent of African language and culture, C. L. S. Nyembezi wrote three novels and several children's readers. He also wrote, edited, or compiled many books on the Zulu language, including dictionaries, books of Zulu poetry, and a volume of Zulu idioms and proverbs.

In his novels, Nyembezi tended to be didactic but also kept a sense of humor as he dealt with important issues of the time. In his first novel, When Boys Were Men, Nyembezi tells the story of a poor orphan who overcomes life's obstacles and becomes a success through the virtues of hard work. His second novel, My Child! My Child!, is derivative of Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, which Nyembezi translated into Zulu. The novel tells the story of a young man who winds up in jail in Johannesburg.

In a show of black African pride, Nyembezi resigned from his teaching post at the University of Fort Hare in 1959 when the government decided to enforce laws saying that universities must be segregated. Although Nyembezi did not lose his job, he resigned on principal when several of his black colleagues were fired. After his resignation, he worked as an editor at the publisher Shuter & Shooter and wrote his third, and most successful, novel. The Tycoon from Pietermaritzburg, published in 1961, is a satire about black Africans becoming too enamored with Western culture and values. In it, a despicable con artist exploits others on his way to becoming a rich tycoon who dresses in European clothes and adopts Western mannerisms. The book was so popular that it became a series on South African radio and a television show.

Because many Zulu-speaking people were illiterate, Nyembezi's novels were not best sellers. Nevertheless, their use in schools and universities provided him with a good income. Nyembezi turned from writing novels to nonfiction, but was known to be encouraging and helpful to budding writers who asked him to read their manuscripts. Having studied under noted African languages scholar B. W. Vilakazi, he turned his energies to educating Zulus, especially the young. In addition to a series of eight Zulu readers for grade school, he developed Zulu grammar books and a dictionary. He also helped to increase the appreciation of Zulu literature by editing several anthologies of Zulu writings, primarily poetry, and a book of traditional praise songs for Zulu kings.

Nyembezi saw language as a tool to help foster a sense of pride among black South Africans. "For Nyembezi, language had an almost spiritual dimension," wrote the author of an obituary in South Africa's Sunday Times. "It bestowed identity, self-esteem, and a sense of individual worth, in a world where it was only too easy for blacks to succumb to the tidal wave of 'white'—American and European culture—and condemn themselves to a life of inferiority in the process."

A statement issued by Sbu Ndebele and posted on the African National Congress Kwazulu Natal Web site, noted that Nyembezi was "an inspiration to generations in the spirit of the African Renaissance. He was able to use culture to instill hope when there was hopelessness. He provided invaluable guidance to us in our effort of making the African renaissance a popular force in our rebirth as a people."



Hedrick, Donald E., editor, African Authors: A Companion to Black African Writing, Volume 1:1300-1973, Black Orpheus Press (Washington, DC), 1973, pp. 306-307.

Nkabinde, A. C., editor, Anthology of Articles on African Linguistics and Literature: A Festschrift to C. L. S. Nyembezi, Lexicon Publishers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1988.



Sunday Times (South Africa), July 9, 2000, "Man Who Taught His Pupils the Value of Words."


African National Congress Kwazulu Natal Web site,http://www.anc.org.za/ (June 27, 2000), "Death of Pro Nyembezi."*