We are all born to die, but some live forever even after death because of their enduring legacies. One such person is the late Dennis Langalakhe Mzoneli, a passionate sugarcane farmer who put the plight of small-scale growers at the centre of his mission to serve others during his time on Planet Earth.

Mzoneli, fondly known as “Mzo”, grew up as a neighbour of Inkosi (Chief) Albert Luthuli (the widely respected former president of the ANC and Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) and the family home is within a stone’s throw of the Luthuli Museum. As fate would have it, his business acumen saw him become part of a joint venture – through his construction company – which was responsible for the world-renowned Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban. A philanthropist at heart, he used his own money to build a church in the KwaMashu Township. His contribution to job creation through his business ventures is legendary.

He played an instrumental role in uniting the four grower associations in the early 1990s to form a non-racial united South African Cane Growers’ Association (SACGA). He joined the Board in 1997 and retired in 2006, and during that time was instrumental in making sure the Small Grower Development Trust delivered to Small-Scale Growers (SSGs). He was a principled man who played a key role in the industry structures set up to support black growers and was actively involved in the establishment of Umthombo Agricultural Finance. He was the man who proposed in 2005 that the industry land company be called “Inkezo”. He was a giant of a man needing space for his long legs and his final contribution to the industry was the change of the name “small grower” to “small-scale grower” as he was not in any way a small grower.

A graduate of the University of Zululand (a Bachelor of Arts degree in social sciences) and the University of South Africa (honours degree in the same discipline), he left this world at the age of 78. Mzoneli’s legacy lives on… his daughter continues building on her father’s legacy. He is survived by by his wife, Joyce “uKoti”, children, grandchildren, a great grandchild and two sisters.

Lala kahle Msomi Phingoshe Nomndayi, Singila, Hlombe, nina enehla ngomzungulu wasala wabola, makhosi amakhulu asezilozini ezibuka umuntu sengathi ziyamjamela, abakanyoni ezimnyama ezimaphik’ abomvu. 

Wena okaMlondolozi!