Moses Mtileni (left) autographs his book, Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula, to fellow writer and publisher Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho in February 2016.

SA loses literary talent to crime


The literary fraternity in South Africa has been flung into a mourning phase, following the killing of a highly talented writer, scholar, leader and family man, Moses Khaizen Nzama Mtileni, on 9 July at his house in Birch Acres, on the outskirts of Tembisa, Gauteng.

Mtileni was at his home when criminals intruded and shot him dead at around 02:00. His wife was also shot at and injured during the attack.

Friend and poet Enock Shishenge said that the family were in a state of deep mourning. He described Mtileni as an exceptional persona, intellectual par excellence, a lover of books who possessed the listening skill that was not only rare but very sharp as well.

“I have witnessed his literary work unfolding and read almost everything he published,” Shishenge said. “He was a true cadre who decided to be non-partisan in politics as a result of not wanting to associate himself with the rot that has engulfed the body politics. And above all he was a friend to everyone – he belonged to the people.”

Through his publishing house, Nhlalala Books, he published several previously unpublished writers in anthologies.

“The week preceding his passing away he told me that he wanted to translate Communist Manifesto and he was translating Vonani Bila’s Bilakhulu into Xitsonga,” Shishenge said. “He was also in the process of publishing a Xitsonga novel with Macmillan. By the time he passed on he had just finalised the Xitsonga Literary Competition, which he was going to fund personally. He was going to publish 10 books in 2019.”

His books are U ya va rungula, When the Moon Goes to Rest, Mpimavayeni, Ntsena loko mpfula a yo sewula, and Nhlalala.

He held a Bachelor of Science degree in town and regional planning (University of the Witwatersrand, 2006), a Master of Science in Town and Regional Planning (University of the Witwatersrand, 2011), a Master of Commerce in Development Theory and Policy (University of the Witwatersrand, 2012), and an MA in Creative Writing (Rhodes University). He was a PhD candidate in town and regional planning with the University of the Witwatersrand, and a PhD in Creative Writing with the University of the Western Cape.

He was also a sessional lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Town and Regional Planning between 2007 and 2018 and an executive director for housing at City Johannesburg.

“As a student leader and political activist, Mtileni played a significant role in shaping the ideological and political outlook of those he led with,” said friend Floyd Shivambu. “Amidst his activism and involvement in students’ and youth politics, he was also one of the most brilliant students. He belonged to the Golden Key Society, which is a society of academically excellent students. He partook in many international scholarship conferences even when he was an undergraduate student.”

Tributes have been pouring from all corners of the South Africa and beyond the borders of the country. His memorial service was held at the University of the Witwatersrand on Wednesday. He will be laid to rest at Nkuri village in Giyani tomorrow (Saturday).


Date:19 July 2019 - By: Tshifhiwa Mukwevho

Tshifhiwa Mukwevho

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho was born in 1984 in Madombidzha village, not far from Louis Trichardt in the Limpopo Province. After submitting articles for roughly a year for Limpopo Mirror's youth supplement, Makoya, he started writing for the main newspaper. He is a prolific writer who published his first book, titled A Traumatic Revenge in 2011. It focusses on life on the street and how to survive amidst poverty. His second book titled The Violent Gestures of Life was published in 2014.

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