As part of a series on the heroes honoured in eThekwini’s new street and building names, Swazi Dlamini profiles KE Masinga

KE Masinga Road
Formerly Old Fort

Broadcasting pioneer and tireless champion of local languages, history and traditions, King Edward (KE) Masinga was born in 1904 at Mzumbe on the KwaZulu- Natal South Coast. His father had run away from home to become a missionary and had settled in the area to teach and preach. When he was six, Masinga started looking after his father’s cattle and goats. He would start his herd boy duties at 5am and then go to school at 3pm. His father died when he was 11 and the family moved to Inanda, where he went to school at the Ohlange Institute, started by ANC founder, Rev John Dube.

His mother worked as a domestic worker to pay for his schooling. After leaving the Ohlange Institute he went to Adams College, where he studied for his matric and a teaching certificate. He worked as a teacher until 1941, rising to the position of headmaster. At 37 he opted for a complete change in career. While walking along Samora Machel (then Aliwal) Street, he passed a building and asked the guards its name. They told him it was the SABC, but that no black person worked there except as cleaners or “tea boys”. Undaunted, Masinga walked in and spoke to a director. That same night he made history when he read the 7pm news in isiZulu, for the first time.

He soon started making records of the songs he had sang while a herd boy and formed a choir. He made records of isiZulu children’s songs and translated the English news into isiZulu. He translated nine of Shakespeare’s plays, including Romeo and Juliet, into isiZulu, making these classics accessible to millions of South Africans. Just how widely respected Masinga was in his field became apparent in 1957, when the United States government invited him to America to study and to talk about Zulu music. When he was 67 he began to have problems with his sight and despite many operations nearly became blind. He married eight times and had five daughters. He retired when he was 65, but was re-employed by the SABC and eventually retired at 68. He died in 1990.

swazid@durban.gov.za