Mbongeni Ngema’s funeral could be postponed

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube arriving at The Playhouse Theatre in Durban for the late Mbongeni Ngema’s memorial service on Wednesday. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube arriving at The Playhouse Theatre in Durban for the late Mbongeni Ngema’s memorial service on Wednesday. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published Jan 4, 2024


Durban — The funeral of the internationally acclaimed playwright and lyricist Mbongeni Ngema could be interdicted following the KwaZulu-Natal government’s failure to resolve a family dispute.

In a letter sent to Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube on Tuesday by Yolanda Wanda Moncho, who claimed to be Ngema’s customary wife, seen by the Daily News, she threatened court action if the premier failed to resolve the matter between the parties.

The woman from Soweto in Johannesburg also claimed that she is the managing director and sole shareholder of Diamond Edge, a company that has been managing Ngema as an artist since 2019. Supporting her claim to be the customary wife, Moncho said Ngema sent a delegation to her family in 2021 which qualifies her to be her customary wife, adding she was three months pregnant with Ngema’s child.

She said the reasons why she has decided to direct this correspondence to the premier was because of several unsuccessful attempts to get the family of the late Ngema to involve her in all the meetings and other discussions among themselves and government officials pertaining to memorial service(s) and the burial of her husband.

“I write to plead with your office to please facilitate an urgent meeting between myself and the family that will see Dr Ngema’s management company, Diamond Edge, and myself being actively involved in the discussions and the preparations for my client and husband’s memorial and funeral, in much the same way as other spouses of my husband.

“I wish to add here that my husband was not married to any one woman in terms of civil rights, we were all customary law wives. No wife should therefore rank more important over the other so far as planning and executing his last journey. As his official manager, I have worked closely with Dr Ngema, I am familiar with what he wanted on stage; it is for this reason that I wish to be actively involved in planning and executing what will effectively be his final shows, the memorial(s) and the burial.

“As his partner, Dr Ngema has over the years confided to me on a number of matters pertaining to his death and it is my sincere wish to ensure that these are carried through to the end. This will also assist with my own healing and eventual closure. I loved my husband, even in death, I love him. It remains my wish that his memorial(s) and burial proceed without any controversy, I am therefore hopeful that this request will find resonance with your esteemed office.

“However, in the unfortunate event that this does not happen, I will regrettably have to approach the courts on an urgent basis, to seek relief in this regard. It is my sincere hope and wish that this does not become necessary,” read the letter.

The late Mbongeni Ngema’s memorial service was held at The Playhouse Theatre in Durban on Wednesday. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Moncho told the paper on Thursday morning that the premier has only acknowledged the receipt of her email. Premier spokesperson Bongi Gwala confirmed that the Premier’s Office did receive the letter but was unsure whether the premier has seen it, adding he will have to find out. Gwala said acknowledging receipt of the letter did not mean that the premier has seen it because all correspondences to her are received by her office, which processes them before reaching the premier.

Attempts to reach Ngema’s family were unsuccessful, but their comment will be added once received. The paper understands that Moncho was not at the memorial service in Durban on Wednesday and only one wife known as Nompumelelo Gumede attended, but Moncho said Ngema never had a civil marriage and therefore all wives have equal status, including herself.

Ngema died last week in an accident while he was on his way back from a funeral in the Eastern Cape. According to the family announcement, he would be buried on Friday under a category 2 special provincial funeral which was granted by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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