As the number of festive season road fatalities continues to climb, tributes are pouring in for legendary South African playwright and musician Mbongeni Ngema, who died in a head-on collision on the R61 near Bizana in the Eastern Cape.
In a statement, the family said Ngema was a passenger in a vehicle returning from a funeral in Lusikisiki.
Born in Verulam, Ngema’s – or Madlokovu as he was affectionately referred to by his clan name – work was internationally acclaimed, receiving Tony Award nominations for Asinamali and Sarafina!.
Ngema, 68, also received Grammy Award nominations through his work in Sarafina! and The Lion King.
Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa expressed his condolences.
“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,” said Kodwa.
Ngema also received several accolades such as Lifetime Achievement Awards in the South African Music Awards (Samas) and the Naledi Theatre Awards. Ngema also contributed greatly to the development of creative arts in communities through his collaboration with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and its agencies such as the Playhouse Company.
The Young Communist League of South Africa said: “We shall remember Mr Mbongeni Ngema for his music albums Township Fever, Laduma, Woza My Fohloza, Jive Madlokovu – this is where you find the famous Stimela Sase Zola.
“It was through such protest music that kept the spirit of resistance high within the people during the dark days of apartheid. This was the art of resistance well orchestrated.”
In a statement, the family said Ngema was best known for his award-winning works that include “Sarafina” and “Woza Albert”.
“Among his many hit songs is ‘Stimela Sase Zola’. An entertaining artist of note, Ngema’s works reflected the spirit of resistance during the Westwood’s of apartheid and liberation Struggle,” the statement read.
Ngema’s death comes as Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga this week said more than 700 lives had been lost on South Africa’s roads since the beginning of the month.
Chikunga said the Eastern Cape had recorded 59 fatalities, a 41.0% decrease compared with the same time last year. The Western Cape recorded 76 fatalities, a 1.3% decrease compared with last year.
Parliament also extended its condolences to the Ngema family.
“It is imperative that we fully co-operate with the law and law enforcement officers at all times. Whether you are a pedestrian, a driver, or a passenger, the responsibility to ensure that no more lives are lost on our roads rests in the hands of each road user. Let us come together as a nation to make our roads safer and prevent further tragedies.”