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Henry Nxumalo

Henry Nxumalo

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Henry Nxumalo, also known as Henry "Mr Drum" Nxumalo was a South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...



He was born in 1917 in Margate
Margate, KwaZulu-Natal
Margate is a seaside resort town on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, just about 20 kilometres southwest of Port Shepstone. The river which flows into the sea at Margate is called "Nkhongweni" because the original inhabitants were reputed to be so mean that travellers had to beg for hospitality...

, Natal
KwaZulu-Natal is a province of South Africa. Prior to 1994, the territory now known as KwaZulu-Natal was made up of the province of Natal and the homeland of KwaZulu....

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and attended the Fascadale Mission School. Showing early promise as a writer, he submitted various samples of his work to publications and as a result was offered by a job by the Post newspaper in Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

 who had published some of his earlier contributions.

He enlisted in the South African Army
South African Army
The South African Army is the army of South Africa, first formed after the Union of South Africa was created in 1910.The South African military evolved within the tradition of frontier warfare fought by commando forces, reinforced by the Afrikaners' historical distrust of large standing armies...

 when World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 broke out and was sent to Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 where the South African forces were involved in the Western Desert.

He became frustrated upon his return to South Africa. There were few opportunities for black journalists due to the restrictions of apartheid. Most Black-focused publications were controlled by white business interests and none of them offered scope for the kind of investigative exposes that Nxumalo had in mind.

In 1951, the publisher Jim Bailey
James R. A. Bailey
James R. A. Bailey DFC, known as Jim Bailey, , was World War II fighter pilot, poet - and influential newspaper owner.The son of randlord, Sir Abe Bailey and pioneer aviator Mary Bailey, he was educated at Winchester and Oxford and joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot in September 1939...

 established the legendary Drum magazine with Anthony Sampson
Anthony Sampson
Anthony Terrell Seward Sampson was a British writer and journalist. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford and served with the Royal Navy from 1944-47. During the 1950s he edited the magazine Drum in Johannesburg, South Africa...

 as editor and asked Henry Nxumalo to become the assistant editor.

Henry specialised in investigative journalism.

He obtained employment on the potato farms and exposed the squalid conditions (almost slave-like) experienced by Black labourers. Worried about the lawlessness in Johannesburg the square mile of sin, he agitated for clean-up and appealed for support from the police. He managed to get arrested and was sent to Johannesburg central prison. The resulting article describing the ward conditions and the degrading naked search was an international scoop . He got work on a farm where an African labourer was beaten to death with a section of hose-pipe. His investigation into whether the church supported apartheid showed the difference between prejudice and the gospel of brotherly love.

In 1957, Henry was investigating an abortion racket when he was murdered by unknown assailants.

In 2004, Goch Street in Johannesburg's cultural hub, Newtown
Newtown, Gauteng
Newtown is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is located in Region 8. Newtown is currently being developed into a vibrant, mixed-use area with a unique character based on existing cultural facilities - the indelible Kippies, the world renowned Market Theatre, SAB World of Beer, Moyo...

was changed to Henry Nxumalo Street.


  • South African The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for excellence in South African journalism (Posthumous).

See also

  • Good-looking Corpse: World of Drum - Jazz and Gangsters, Hope and Defiance in the Townships of South Africa, Mike Nicol, Secker & Warburg, 1991, ISBN 0-43-630986-6

  • Writing from South Africa, edited by Anthony Adams & Ken Durham, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-52-143572-2 contains The Birth of a Tsotsi: Henry Nxumalo

External links