Hail the legendary CTD Marivate

A linguist who made Xitsonga language his own

Benson Ntlemo

Very few people who hear the names CTD Marivate will faill to associate them with the Xitsonga language.

Professor Cornelius Tennyson Marivate who was a renowned academic and the first Xitsonga lecturer at the University of South Africa died on December 4 aged 93.

He was the second born son of the late Reverend Daniel Marivate a legendary figure himself who was the first person to write a Xitsonga novel when he wrote Xitsonga novel Sasavona in 1938.

The Late CTD Marivate | Pic supplied

Reverend Daniel Marivate was a author and choral music composer and conductor, and so it was the case with his son known just as CTD.

CTD himself carved his name in the annals of history when he became the first Xitsonga lecturer at the University of South Africa.

Well known Xitsonga author Freddie Rikhotso who was also the radio announcer at Munghana Lonene Fm before he retired some few years ago recalls a lot about the late CTD whom he wrote about in a book titled Vatsari va Vatsonga, book of biographies of Xitsonga authors.

Rikhotso remembers the 1978 drama when the late Marivate campaigned to be a member of parliament in the then Gazankulu homeland parliament and worn, but opted out of it before he was sworn in as an MP by the late homeland leader Professor Hudson Ntsanwisi.

According to Rikhotso it was a case of “being impossible for two bulls in one kraal,” because after Prof Ntsanwisi’s death he became an education minister in the same government after being appointed by Professor Ntsanwisi’s successor Hosi SDW Nxumalo. However this was for a short period as the homelands were to give way to a new democratic order and Prof Marivate was also one of the negotiators of Convention for a Democratic South Africa and was also appointed by former president Mandela to be in a commission that charted the way for one education system in South Africa.

Rikhotso has hailed Marivate as a trailblazer.

“We have lost a giant who has left a void that will be hard to fill,” said Rikhotso.

Anke Weishelt, a senior lecturer from Uganda  also sent massages of condolence to the family and added,”May the soul of Prof Marivate rest in eternal peace,”

Ms Mary Mabuza, an academic from Nkowankowa in Limpopo said: “Prof CTD intervened during my third year studies at Unisa when I was to drop Xitsonga and replace it with another course.His challenging words propelled me to pass Xitsonga 3 with Cum Laude to become one of the first Xitsonga female authors. I went on to win several awards including winning the South African Literary Lifetime award and the Nadine Gordimer award for writing in African languages.”

Retired Giyani school principal Albert RisimatI hailed the late Prof as  a legend. “I knew him and admired him while I was still a youngster and later interacted with him when I grew up. A great leader in the development of EPCSA, he has run his race and may his soul rest in eternal peace,” said Risimati.   

Prof Marivate was born in Valdesia Mission station on 10 April 1927.

He completed his primary education at Valdesia primary school before Lemana College where he attained his Junior Certificate and a teacher’s certificate.

He later the following qualifications with Unisa: matric, BA, BA Honours and Doctor of Philosophy.

He also attained a diploma in music through the London School of Music.

He worked as a teacher, lecturer at Unisa until he retired.

Perhaps one of the highlights of his life was when former President Nelson Mandela personally invited him in parliament to serve as an ANC MP in the education portfolio where he served for a term.

Like his father DC, Prof CTD Marivate wrote many Xitsonga books and translated many others from English to Xitsonga.

As a musician, just like his father, he composed many songs, conducted many choirs and adjudicated in many music competitions for many years.

He was also a Xitsonga language examiner for many years.

His son Rhulani said his father fought hard for the Xitsonga language to be recognized.

“He was also one of the founders of the Khindlimuka Gaza Music Festival, a music competition that brought choirs and choristers from all over the country,” he said. Together with fellow patriots, Dr WF Nkomo and Dr Abe Nkomo, they were members of Moral Re-armament through which they were able to shape young men and women in the Saulsville and Atteridgeville area , using positive values to build their characters.

He was instrumental in building Masizani primary school in Sausville, which was later named after him.

He was also instrumental in building Flavius Mareka high School. He was also a member of Atteridgeville School and Council Boards. Prof CTD Marivate was also a staunch member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Africa and is a member of the Men’s Guild.

A well respected in academia he has presented papers in various countries including in Europe, US and Australia.

The late Prof Marivate is survived by his wife Stephina, children, Billy, Sizet, Cynthia, Bertha, Rhulani, Makhanani and Mzamani, 17 grandchildren and 16 great grand children.

He will be laid to rest in Sausvile tomorrow.

Etlela hi ku rhula Maringa.

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