University of Johannesburg Prize for Creative Writing 2021 winners announced.

EDM Sibiya, Mbusiseni Bhenya, Kobate John Sekele are the winners for the University of Johannesburg Prize for Creative Writing 2021 announced on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing, also known as the UJ Prize, was instituted in 2006. It comprised of a main prize and a debut prize, given annually for “the best original creative work in English published in the previous calendar year”. Some previous winners were Nthikeng Mohlele. Mohale Mashigo, Zakes Mda, Penny Busetto, Lauren Beukes, Ivan Vladislavic, and Jacob Dlamini.

For 2021, the University of Johannesburg, introduced new prizes and they announced their shortlists on September 9. On Wednesday, they announced the winners in the different categories and they are;

UJ Prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu

The winner of the 2021 UJ main prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu with a monetary value of R70 000 is EDM Sibiya for his work entitled Isibusiso Nezinyembezi (Blessings and tears).

In this anthology, the work of the icon Sibusiso Nyembezi is highlighted by 100 poems written by 13 seasoned poets in celebration of Nyembezi’s influence on isiZulu literature. Different themes are investigated that touch on aspects of culture, politics, nature, love, education, history, death, and war.

UJ Debut Prize in isiZulu 2021


The 2021 Debut Prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu with a monetary value of R35 000 goes to Umbusiseni Bhenya for the drama UGovana kaGovana (Discontentment).

One of the adjudicators commented on the text as follows: “In UGovana kaGovana, the author delves into the interesting dynamic of the love-hate relationships between mothers-in-law and their makotis. It points out how a makoti, who wants finer things in life, controls her husband and isolates him from his family. The drama reflects on this kind of volatile relationship, which consistently recurs in poor communities where children are expected to take care of their aging parents.”

UJ Prize for Sesotho sa Leboa 2021

The winner of the 2021 main prize for Sesotho sa Leboa with a prize value of R70 000 is Kobate John Sekele for Madimabe a Lešoko (The heartache that comes with having children sometimes …)

The panel noted that the use of the standard form of Sesotho sa Leboa should serve as a source of inspiration to other writers. They further noted that “the pillars of the plot structure are neatly arranged with the highest level of expertise” and commended the author for the way in which the idea that one is never to trust others is woven into a well-written novel dealing with issues of loyalty, disrespect, and the age-old theme of actions having consequences.

UJ Prize for Literary Translation

The 2021 UJ Prize for Literary Translation with a prize value of R50 000 is awarded to Michiel Heyns for his translation of Buys by Willem Anker as Red dog in English.