“We have learned with sadness of the passing of one of the pioneers of the television comedy loved by all South Africans young and old. Mr Mafela, also affectionately known as Sdumo, was also a television producer and songwriter. The arts and culture industry has been robbed of a bigger than life figure. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to [the] Mafela family and may his soul rest in peace,” Zuma said.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said: "We are shocked and saddened by the passing of a great artist and a truly generous man Baba Joe Mafela. The nation has lost an extraordinary son of the soil. He was multi-talented and multi-skilled, much loved and much revered. We salute his lifelong contribution to South African arts and culture. We convey our strength and heartfelt condolences to the Mafela family, to his friends, and numerous fans.
“Joe Mafela is a household name to all of us as he spent decades on the big and small screens acting out a countless number of roles which showed his versatility as an actor. His role as the character S’dumo in 'Sgudi Snaysi' remains in the consciousness and cultural imagination of the nation as a whole. But he was also a producer, a director, an advertising director, and a musician whose hit songs including 'Shebeleza' came to dominate the air waves,” Mthethwa said.
Born in Sibasa, Limpopo, and raised in Kliptown and Tshiawelo in Soweto, Johannesburg, he began his career in 1965 when he had his acting debut in the film "Real News" where he played an editor. In 1974 he starred in South Africa’s first black feature film "Udeliwe" which gained him a new following among moviegoers. During the 1980s his television career blossomed with "Sgudi Snaysi".
He also became a creative director in the advertising industry and also focused on producing. He became a co-owner of Penguin Films. He began releasing highly successful musical albums. He won numerous awards including a Loerie award for his advertising work and best actor in comedy at the South African Film and Television Awards (Safta). He also received an Emmy nomination.
In recent times he acted on “Generations: the Legacy”. African National Congress spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the ANC had learnt with sadness of Mafela’s death. “Joe Mafela was an international acclaimed songwriter. His title track ‘Shebeleza’ was used as a theme song for the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations in which South Africa were crowned champions.
He has been a pioneer and veteran in the entertainment industry, having received numerous awards including, but not limited to, the best actor in comedy at the South African film and television awards.
The Democratic Alliance extended its deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. In a statement the party said Mafela was "a constant feature during our childhoods, through his work in television, theatre, film and music, Joe has made us cry, made us laugh and he made us think".
The African National Congress Women's League said it is saddened by the passing of the legendary actor, Mr Joe Mafela who "will be remembered as a pioneer of transformation and a legendary that was involved in various arts activities that created a platform for many black artists to be recognised in the arts industry".