Ways of Dying

Brenda Fassie's coma and death stirred up a frenzy of activity, with fans, friends and hangers on singing hymns and prayers in an ongoing vigil of vain hope.

"They told her jokes. They sang hymns. They held hands around Brenda Fassie's hospital bed and prayed. But it was all in vain. After Fassie suffered heart failure... the family vigil began with hope that they could repeat the pop diva's own famous line: 'Tell everyone that Brenda is back!'... An emotional Themba Fassie, [Brenda's] brother, said: 'There [are] too many songs she hasn't sung yet - for her fans; for the country; for herself.'... The vigil reached a high point of optimism... with Fassie's complexion improving from earlier pallor, and her breathing less dependent on a ventilator... But her condition worsened hours later."

- "Heartbreaking vigil for Queen of Pop", Sunday Times, May 2, 2004


"A radio plays beside Brenda Fassie's bedside, playing many of the pop icon's famous songs. Fiery songs like Black President and Too Late for Mama can be faintly heard along the plush, quiet corridors leading to the intensive care unit at Sunninghill Hospital in northern Johannesburg. 'We're playing her music so she can hear what she ahs accomplished in her life,' [said] Fassie's brother, Themba. 'We talk to her all the time, even though she's in a coma. We believe it helps.'

"Some concerned fans haunted the hospital lobby. Tanki Lesenya and Moleboheng Patose drive through the night from Lesotho. They pray silently and hope for a chance to see Fassie, despite being told that visiting rights have been restricted to family, close friends and VIPs. President Thabo Mbeki and former president Nelson Mandela [were] among the VIPs to visit Fassie. 'We wanted to see our queen... We heard on the radio that she was very sick and thought we should come and offer our support,' [said] Lesenya."

- "Fassie lingers as family and fans reminisce", This Day, May 7, 2004


"Hundreds of Langa residents gathered ... to pray and light candles for desperately ill pop singer, Brenda Fassie... The service ... was attended by Fassie's family and relatives, school pupils and parents, leaders from various organisations and church ministers. Tiyo Soga Congregation church in Langa was almost full as many flocked in to pray for their favourite singer... One of the ministers, Rev MC Steto, said: 'Let's forget about anything, including the person next to you. Use the three minutes [of prayer] and discuss with God and pray for [Brenda's] speedy recovery.'"

-"Langa prays for its songbird Brenda", Cape Argus, May 5, 2004


"After 14 days of high drama, at 4.50pm on Sunday, 9 May 2004, the Queen call[ed] it quits. Her record company of over 20 years, for whom she had recorded over 15 albums, over 150 songs and over 10 000 hours of her childlike, overwrought, drug-and beer-strained voice, issues a statement: 'A hero has fallen.'"

- www.sundaytimes.co.za/SpecialReports/BookAwards/Article.aspx?id>458576


"Many reasons were provided for Brenda Fassie's death, among them was that she died from an asthma attack. [But] 'it has been confirmed that South African diva Brenda Fassie died of a cocaine overdose.' According to Inspector [Amanda] Roestoff, the [judicial] inquiry [into Fassie's death] established that 'Fassie had collapsed in her brother's arms, and then a cocaine pipe fell from her hand'... Insp Roestoff added that urine tests taken at the Sunninghill Clinic shortly after she collapsed on April 26 showed traces of cocaine."

- "Fassie died of a cocaine overdose", Citizen, December 20, 2004


back to the Brenda Fassie memorial page

"I like to create controversy. I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible."
Brenda Fassie
Brenda Fassie, 1984
Picture: Joe Sefale © Sunday Times


Newspaper sources: An exercise in image-making

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about different images that the media communicate. They will see that one person can be represented in many different ways, or that one person has different sides. Brenda Fassie was a very complex person.

Lesson page
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
Archive Photo Gallery
MaBrrr channels Madonna and other great divas.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Watch the Brenda sculpture develop from clay mould to glowing likeness of the queen of African pop.
Orbituary audio archive
Listen to SAfm/Metro FM’s obituary of Brenda, broadcast on May 10, 2004 (5’42").
Go on a 360° virtual tour of the Brenda Fassie memorial, located at Bassline, in the Newtown precinct of Johannesburg.
Madiba remembers Princess Brenda
Madiba describes his surprise when he heard Princess Brenda coming down the stairs in his house
Zola Budd Track
The Sunday Times Heritage Project’s first memorial is to Brenda Fassie, a woman variously described as the Queen of African pop and the Madonna of the Townships
Brenda Fassie and Zola Budd
MaBrrr struts her stuff and takes on taxi drivers with her big hit, “Zola Budd”