South African singer Brenda Fassie died Sunday at the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, aged 39. She had been in a coma since April 26, after suffering an asthma attack. This led to cardio-respiratory arrest and subsequent brain damage.
Former president Nelson Mandela, current President Thabo Mbeki and Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were among Fassie’s visitors in hospital.
Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo on Sunday night described Fassie as not just a South African singer, but a pan-African “griot” (storyteller), adding that she thrived “despite harsh apartheid conditions”. Khumalo said: “We salute the sister from Langa (the Cape Town township where she grew up) who lives on in her timeless songs.”
In a statement, political party the Democratic Alliance paid respect to Fassie as “a national treasure.”
Over a career spanning two decades, Fassie enjoyed a string of hits and multi-platinum selling releases. Some of her best-known protest songs include “Black President” and “Good Black Woman”. She recorded for EMI South Africa division CCP Records over her entire career.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.