Big man, big funeral

Don Mkhwanazi, a black South African businessman and strong proponent of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), died in July this year at the age of 63.

One of President Jacob Zuma’s closest allies, he was buried with enormous ceremony. In fact, it’s now emerged that his funeral cost Rand 750,000 (about £42,000).

That’s a a very expensive funeral by South African standards – a more typical price range is Rand 40,000 to 120,000 (£2,300 to £6,800). But very few ordinary black South Africans can afford even those prices.

The funeral of Mkhwanazi, who had enriched himself vastly by being awarded government contracts, was paid for by the city of Durban ratepayers, who are wondering why they should foot the bill for such a costly funeral.

After all it’s not that Don was short of a bob or two. He was the co-owner of Southern Africa Shipyards, which was awarded South African naval contracts in 2014 worth Rand 406 million (£23 million), and a government contract to build tugboats worth Rand 1.4 (£80 million).

He also just happened to be the head of the ‘Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust’, a fundraising organisation that helped to pay for Zuma’s legal bills in his fight against corruption charges.

Mkhwanazi’s businesswoman widow, Zodwa Msimang, is also a regular tender winner in the Durban municipality, largely through her events and communications company Ikhono Communications, and she sits on the board of the convention centre where the funeral was held.

In a Mail & Guardian profile of 1997, the paper wrote that Mkhwanazi was:

Likely to say: “It’s all for the good of black empowerment”


Least likely to say: “Let me just check that with the relevant authorities”


Picture source: UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons