From President Jacob Zuma who expressed “sadness at the passing of one of the pioneers of television comedy loved by all South Africans, young and old” to those South Africans for whom he represented the face of TV.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa expressed sadness at the death of a “great artist and a truly generous man (who was multi-skilled, much loved and revered”.
Mafela is a household name as he spent decades on the big and small screens.
“His role as 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 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 focused on producing. He became a co-owner of Penguin Films. He won numerous awards including a Loerie 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 Mafela acted on Generations: the Legacy.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said 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 was crowned champions.
He had 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.
“As we mourn his passing, the ANC sends its sincere condolences to the Mafela family. We also extend our heartfelt sympathies to his colleagues in the industry and all South Africans at large. May his soul rest in peace,” Kodwa said.
National Freedom Party leader Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi said Mafela was a “veteran of the craft” and he hoped young actors had learnt something from him.
DA national spokesperson Refiloe Nt’seke also extended deepest condolences to Mafela’s family and loved ones.
“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.
“He was a celebrated entertainer, who was awarded the Theatre Management of South Africa Lifetime Achievement Award at the Naledi Theatre Awards and became the first black person to be awarded a Grand Prix at the Loeries.”
Parliament was saddened and shocked by Mafela’s death, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.
Mafela was among the most outstanding actors whose talent was a source of inspiration and source of pride to generations of South Africans. His death was a devastating loss to the arts industry and the nation as a whole.
“Parliament extends its sincere sympathies and condolences to the bereaved family, relatives, and friends of this great South African,” Mothapo said.
The SABC also expressed sadness at Mafela’s death. “He was a giant in his field and had become a voice and face of the industry. The SABC sends its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, viewers and fans who have followed his esteemed career on TV, stage and film over the past 40 years,” spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said.
South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu said Mafela’s death was a “monumental loss for the country and the entertainment industry”.
“We owe it to the memory of this selfless and humble doyen of the arts and culture to intensify road safety efforts to reduce the carnage on our public roads,” Mahlangu said.