Family and friends remember gospel star Neyi Zimu, who lost his battle with skin cancer
HE WAS a man of pure heart, who loved God sincerely. That’s how Dr Nelisiwe Sibisi Zimu (47) described her husband, late gospel artist Neyi Zimu.“He was an authentic man,” she says.
The gospel star’s death in December shocked South Africans who had joined thousands of fans to pray for his healing. But it wasn’t meant to be and the celebrated singer died after battling skin cancer.
Since then, social media has been full of rolling tributes to the It is Well singer. He was upbeat and positive until the end, his family and friends tell Move!.
At one of his memorial services at a packed Change Bible Church in Katlehong, his wife told of a man who kept his faith right up until the end.
Nelisiwe, a medical doctor by profession, resigned from her job at Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus to look after her husband on a fulltime basis.“I was able to learn servanthood through him,” she says.
Neyi (49) and Nelisiwe met through learned servanthood at Change Bible Church and were members of the church for many years.
In 2005, the couple started their own ministry, All Nations Revival Ministries, based in Centurion and became Prophet Neyi and Prophetess Nelisiwe.
His older brother, Silas Zimu, admits the whole idea of Neyi belonging to a different church was one he didn’t warm up to at first.“We were raised in the Apostolic Faith Mission church in Everton in a small house. He was supposed to be a pastor there,” he jokes.
He’ll always remember his brother as the man who loved soccer so much while growing up that he was nicknamed Jomo Sono.
In the months before his passing, Neyi was often seen wearing gloves in public. It wasn’t long before his skin started to change and it started showing on his face.“We initially thought it was a minor skin problem,” his brother says.
Neyi’s family knocked on every door and went to every hospital to make sure his got the necessary treatment.
They got help at the Zakithi Nkosi Clinical Haematology Centre of Excellence in Soweto.
Silas praised the facility, saying Neyi’s cancer treatment was good while he was going through chemotherapy.
“Neyi had been cured of cancer, the last two weeks were about the sideeffects he was struggling with,” he says.
PLANS CUT SHORT
He was getting ready to restart his life, Neyi’s family share. His plan was to take a sabbatical for a few weeks to spend time with his family. And he had major plans for his music in 2020. And then the worst happened.
“On 4 December, I got a call from his wife in the afternoon, she just said Neyi is not‘alright’. Around 8pm, Neyi passed on,” his brother says.“We don’t know what is going to happen when all is done, but it will be time to use the resilience Neyi had in life,” Silas says.
The country came together following Neyi’s death and the family were overwhelmed with the support. There were three memorials for him in different parts of Gauteng.“The family is so happy to have received so much support from South Africans.”
American singer VaShawn Mitchell performed his songs Nobody Greater and Turning Around for Me at one of the memorials.
A LEGEND LOST
Bishop Benjamin Dube, a close friend of Neyi, collaborated with him on many occasions. They first released Lamb of God in 2011 and had been working together since. Before Neyi’s death, they were working on Spirit of Praise.
He was devastated when he heard of Neyi’s passing.“I was angry when I came back from the hospital. I was so angry I asked God,‘Why?’”
They were both part of the Spirit Music record label family, sharing a lot of ideas about the industry and ministry.
Bishop Dube says he was ready to give Neyi the baton to run Spirit of Praise because he exuded just the right work ethic, musical genius and his love for the kingdom of God. Neyi was a legend, he says.
Gospel artist Omega Khunou cried through a medley for his friend and brother at the memorial service. As hard as it was, he had to do it, he tells Move!. “Mogotsi, who will I be left to perform with on stage?” he cried out.
HEALING AND FAMILY
Not only was he hailed as a man whose good deeds touched lives but through his music, people received healing.
Neyi’s friend and host on Rainbow FM Pastor Teddy Mncedisi Boyi says, “My wife and I had four miscarriages. We sang his songs titled Victorious and now we have a baby, his name is Loyiso [ Victorious].”
They have great memories of Neyi too, his family say. His wife recalls being woken up in the middle of the night when he was composing his most famous song, Jehova Re Tshepile Wena.
“At 3am I would be woken up and he’d say,‘Love, add your soprano here’.”
Neyi and Nelisiwe have three kids, Gcinumuzi Thoriso (18), Khwezi Khensani (15) and Nomusa Zoë (7). Muzi says his father was a disciplined man and he was honest even when it would hurt.“When I was 10, I told you that I want to be like you, and, Daddy, I am going to be like you.”