Photo:Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images
- Tributes have been pouring in for Mbongeni Ngema.
- The legendary playwright and composer died on Wednesday night.
- Ngema is renowned for his works on Sarafina! and Woza Albert.
- For more lifestyle news, go to the News24 Life front page.
Tributes are pouring in for veteran playwright and composer Mbongeni Ngema after the news of his death.
The lyricist, theatre director and producer died in a head-on collision in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, on Wednesday evening, according to a statement by his family
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband, and a patriot, Mbongeni Ngema,” the statement reads.
“Ngema was killed in a head-on car accident whilst returning from attending a funeral in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape this evening. He was a passenger in the vehicle.”
He is best known for writing and directing the award-winning Sarafina! and Woza Albert.
Social media has been abuzz with tributes since the news of his death broke on Wednesday evening. Those who had worked with him and admired his work shared their messages on their social media pages.
Leading the tributes was Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa who said in a statement shared on X: “With the passing of Dr Mbongeni Ngema, South Africa has lost one of its great playwrights, composers, lyricists, directors and musicians. Dr Ngema’s work was celebrated in South Africa and internationally.”
At a critical time in the liberation struggle against apartheid, Dr Ngema took the plays Woza Albert, Asinamali and Sarafina to international stages. These productions not only showcased South African talent but also narrated to the world the experiences of South Africans who were ostracised and brutalised under apartheid.
“The passing of Dr Ngema is a significant loss to South African arts; I wish to express my deepest sympathies to the Ngema family, his colleagues and contemporaries, and to the South African arts fraternity.”
Media personality and choreographer Somizi Mhlongo, who also starred in the Sarafina! production, penned a lengthy post on Instagram, alongside a screengrab of a message he sent to Ngema on Tuesday.
“This one hits the hardest. My master is gone. The man behind the reason I’m multi-talented. The man behind the reason I’m always punctual, disciplined, professional, dedicated, passionate, and my work ethic. The man who discovered me at age 12 and took a risk. The man who gave me my first role as dance captain and later co-choreographer for Sarafina the stage and movie production at age 17.”
He continued: “My father. Your voice keeps ringing in my head when he called me each time he would start by saying Mhlongo you are a star then carry on speaking. And that was the case on Tuesday when u called to ask me to be a part of your production next month as a creative director.”
Actor and TV presenter Minnie Dlamini wrote: “One of the greatest playwrights and talents this country has produced! I remember studying his work in Dramatic Arts at school and realising his genius was before Sarafina! His performance in Woza Albert is physical theatre in its absolute perfection, which he wrote too.”
“What a loss to the creative arts industry,” wrote actor Sophie Ndaba. “UBaba U Mbongeni Ngema will be remembered for generations to come. Thank you for inspiring us with your creative work and music.”
Veteran actor Sello Maake kaNcube shared quotes from two poems in tribute to Ngema. He wrote on Instagram: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt Die.”
And: “Madlokovu. ‘Born of the sun, he travelled a short while toward the sun. And left the vivid air signed with his honour.’
“These two quotes from two different poems best expresses how I feel on hearing of Mbongeni Ngema’s passing. MHSRIP.”
“It is with a painful heart to see so many of our artist leaving us,” wrote artist Gregory Vuyani Maqoma.
“UBaba Mbongeni Ngema was already putting in place a program of an academy of which he spoke so passionately about when he asked me to be part of it. May your soul rest in peace.”