Its designer, Lebohang Khitsane, the chief executive of Bataung Memorial Tombstones, confirmed to The Star yesterday that he had given in to social media pressure as he didn’t want to tarnish Malinga’s legacy or his own business profile and image. The work on the 7-ton tombstone is expected to be completed in the next few days, before it is erected after two weeks at Westpark Cemetery, where Malinga was buried on Tuesday.
The tombstone was initially unveiled during the funeral but has since caused a lot of controversy, with some social media users claiming that the designer had other celebrities in mind when he was making it as its face did not resemble Malinga’s.
Some went as far as suggesting that the designer intended taking revenge on living celebrities such as DJ Mahoota and politician Jeff Radebe.
Khitsane said the negative public reaction made him consider redoing the tombstone’s facial features.
“Initially I thought we had achieved what we wanted to achieve with this tombstone, as it shows Malinga’s sense of style, class and his success. His family were also happy with it. Then I saw the reaction on social media and we immediately spoke with the family about removing and redoing the facial features.
“We requested more photos of Malinga to have this sorted out. I was concerned about my clients and my designs, especially when you are expected to create mind-blowing things. We have to take the feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. We want to create products that will appeal to people,” said Khitsane.
He said the family had expressed dissatisfaction only after the funeral and the unveiling.
It took about 15 employees to make the tombstone in less than a week. Khitsane said a committee of family members and friends was also set up to help him design it.
This led to him featuring replicas of four awards the music legend won during his career.
The structure is made of 80% Namibian rose marble and Rustenburg granite. It cost an estimated R500000, and was paid for by the family and Malinga’s close friends.
Khitsane said the last time he had received negative feedback was when he created an extravagant tombstone for the late actor Joe Mafela last year. The tombstone was a replica of a lounge and included a plasma TV, a DVD player, a couch and a coffee table. He has also designed tombstones for the likes of musician Mduduzi Mandoza Tshabalala, Nkululeko Flabba Habedi, racing driver Gugu Zulu and soccer player John “Shoes” Moshoeu.