Journalists, photographers and former editors came in large numbers to pay their last respect to veteran former Drum, World and City Press newspaper photojournalist Mike Mzileni during his funeral service at Diepkloof Hall Soweto on Thursday.
Addressing mourners at the service, Mzileni’s peers, including former City Press editor-in-chief Khulu Sibiya and Mzileni’s friend and former Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe, reminisced about their days with him.
Sibiya, a board member of Multichoice Africa and chairman of SuperSport Football club, said every journalists he knew looked up to Mzileni for guidance. He said Mzileni, 80, earned the respect of many because he did not demand respect.
Sibiya was editor of City Press when Mzileni was chief photographer at the newspaper.
Mzileni, Desmond Blaauw and ZB Molefe were among the founding staff at the then newly founded City Press in the 80s. The paper was a successor to the Golden City Post.
Thloloe said he met Mzileni at the World newspaper when the photographer started his photographic career in 1963, two years after Thloloe arrived at the publication. They were to work together again at Sowetan where Thloloe was assistant editor.
Mzileni’s career began when he was gifted a camera by a certain white man that he first used to take luxury pictures of. Later he was to become one of the iconic photographers for various publications including Drum magazine, Golden City Post, Rand Daily Mail, Sunday Express and Sunday Times. He retired as chief photographer at City Press in 2000 before he became a freelance photographer and ran a picture framing business in Johannesburg.
An avid jazz fan and collector of the music, Mzileni in 2006 opened an exhibition of jazz greats at the Cape Town Jazz Festival and later at Museum Africa in Johannesburg. In 2008 he authored a pictoral collection coffee table book titled All That Jazz.
All his friends from various publications he worked for attended the funeral including his top pals, Len Kalane, Sekola Sello, Sandile Memela, Ike Sekgola, Mapula Nkosi, and Pearl Rantsekeng among others. Journalists paid respect to Mzileni with a guard of honour at his funeral service while fellow photographers gave him a “photo gun salute” at the cemetery.
Mzileni, who was born in Berlin in the Eastern Cape in 1942, is survived by his wife Antoinette, his children and grandchildren.
He passed away on 1 June after a long battle with poor health.