East London mourns the face of Mdantsane

Popular Mdantsane man Masixole “Zankqenkqe” Nelani died earlier this week.
Popular Mdantsane man Masixole “Zankqenkqe” Nelani died earlier this week.

Tributes continue pouring in for the “face of Mdantsane” who died earlier this week.

Masixole Nelani, who was affectionately known as Zankqenkqe and Gari, was a marshal at the Mdantsane Highway taxi rank, had an “infectious” energy and was known for his entertaining banter in the township circles.

Siya Rumbu, a close friend and Mdantsane community activist, who has been chosen by the family to speak on their behalf, described the man with many faces as the face of Mdantsane.

His death came as a shock on Monday when, according to Rumbu, he went to bed with a bad cough on Sunday and did not wake up the next day at his NU6 home.

Zankqenkqe, who was known for his animated facial expressions, became a social media hit when a selection of his pictures, taken by commuters and people at social gatherings, were used as memes on Twitter and Facebook.

Rumbu said Nelani’s ‘rough voice’, his use of language and love for people was what set him apart.

“He was known as an entertainer who always had the most animated facial expressions and dry sense of humour. To those who were not familiar with him, Zankqenknqe could’ve come across as overly vigorous, but that was his nature.

“He would never hurt a fly. He was a committed family man and father, who was celebrating his one-month-old baby not so long ago,” said Rumbu.

In September last year, a group of East London volunteers and residents renovated Zankqenkqe’s home, which had become dilapidated and unhygienic.

“Zankqenkqe was always there for other people, making them happy and laugh, and so I wanted to see how he lived. When we arrived at his home it was not in good condition.

“Through a social media drive and a group called ‘Make Zankqenkqe Smile’, we were able to fix the paint job, bathroom, kitchen and provide appliances like a microwave and washing machine for the house. That was community work at its best. Everyone who volunteered had been touched by Zankqenqke somehow,” Rumbu said.

Rumbu said the Highway taxi rank was tense and sombre on Monday. He said the community had lost an “unforgettable” person.

Hundreds of people took to social media to pay tribute to Nelani.

@KatanaSiviwe wrote: “Just received sad news that ubhuti waseHighway #Zankqenkqe passed on. Mdantsane is mourning. RIP.”

The Advocate Barry Roux parody account tweeted: “Gari aka Zankqenkqe passed away. Mdantsane will never be the same without him. Rest in peace my brother, you lived a very wonderful life. Until we meet again.”

The tweet was followed by a series pictures and videos of Nelani, under the hashtag #RIPZankqenkqe.

Nelani will be laid to rest on January 25. The funeral service will be held at the NU7 Community Hall.