21 South African stars we lost in 2021

Shona Ferguson succumbed to Covid-19. Picture: Instagram

Shona Ferguson succumbed to Covid-19. Picture: Instagram

Published Dec 14, 2021


This year, the South African entertainment industry has suffered tremendous losses with the passing of many actors, directors, television and theatre creatives, writers and musicians.

As we bid farewell to the year 2021, we remember some of the influential stars whose talent impacted many people’s lives and whose untimely deaths impacted the country.

Shona Ferguson

Media mogul Shona Ferguson succumbed to Covid-19 related complications on July 30, 2021, at the Milpark hospital, in Johannesburg.

Shona, 49, together with his wife, actress Connie Ferguson launched their production company Ferguson Films in 2010.

The company which is dominating the local television and film industry went on to produce hit shows including Rockville, iGazi, The Wild, The Throne, The Queen, The River and The Imposter.

His last production Kings of Joburg recently bagged three international awards at this year’s Hollywood and African Prestigious (HAPA) Awards held in Los Angeles in October.

Shona won the ’Best Lead In a TV Series’ while Cindy Mahlangu scooped the’ Best Supporting Actress’ accolade, and the show was named the Best Series in Africa.

Shona Ferguson. Picture: Instagram

Menzi Ngubane

Menzi Ngubane, popularly for his character as Ngamla on Generations, died of a stroke on March 13, 2021, following a long battle with kidney disease and diabetes. He was 56.

In 2004, Ngubane was diagnosed with kidney failure which led to him being placed on a kidney transplant list and ultimately undergoing the life-saving operation, giving him a second chance to do what he loved most, acting.

The actor spoke openly about his health challenges, raising awareness around kidney disease.

With a career spanning over three decades, the multi-award-winning actor played numerous TV and film roles including Kwakhala Nyonini, Yizo Yizo, Ashes to Ashes, Gold Diggers, Heist, Isibaya and How to Steal 2 Million.

Actor Menzi Ngubane. Picture: Supplied

Ben Kruger

Veteran actor Ben Kruger died of Covid-19 complications on May 26, 2021. Best known for his role as Oom Okkie in the kykNET soapie Binnelanders, Kruger was 64 years old.

He starred in several TV shows including Zero Tolerance, 7de Laan, Jacob's Cross, Silent Witness, Soul Buddy, Riemvasmaak and Triptiek.

He also starred in the 1997 movie Mandela and De Klerk, where he played James Gregory, a former prisoner and later a friend to Nelson Mandela.

Kruger worked in all facets of the industry as a technician, actor and producer. He was writer and head writer for a variety of soapies and wrote hundreds of minutes' of documentaries which he produced.

He was also a director of The Learning Theatre, an industrial film company.

Ben Kruger. Picture: Supplied

Lindiwe Ndlovu

Actress Lindiwe Ndlovu died in her sleep on January 11, 2021. Ndlovu’s greatest achievement was receiving a SAFTA Award for best actress in a feature film in 2013 Little One which was presented to her by US actor Samuel L Jackson.

Ndlovu launched her television acting career in 2011 when she played the role of Qondi in the Mzansi television serial Mazinyo Dot Q. In the same year, she made her film debut in the film Winnie Mandela.

She also featured in local shows including Ses'Top La, Stokvel, Soul City, Scandal!, Isidingo and Home Affairs. She also starred in Zabalaza, Lockdown and Ifalakhe. Before her death, she was set to join the cast of the DStv telenovela, Isono.

Lindiwe Ndlovu. Picture: Instagram

Noxolo ‘Noxee’ Maqashalala

Actress Noxolo Maqashalala was found dead at her Joburg home on March 12, 2021. She was 44.

Her break-out role was as Viwe in the first three seasons of the youth drama series Tsha Tsha from 2003 to 2005.

Since then, the Eastern-Caper born star made several notable appearances in popular television shows including Generations, Binnelanders, Dream World and Intersexions, Gauteng Maboneng, and etv's Rhythm City.

She also featured in a legal drama Diamond City in 2018 and was credited as an executive producer on the show. Diamond City later also aired on Netflix.

Maqashalala, who studied Psychology in Dublin, Ireland, was also a counsellor to abused women and children in the Eastern Cape.

Noxolo ‘Noxee’ Maqashalala

Luzuko Nteleko

Muvhango’ actor Luzuko Nteleko lost his battle with brain cancer on June 21, 2021. Nteleko was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer in 2019.

Nteleko starred in various TV shows including Streets of Mangaung, Mfolozi Street, Isidingo, Keeping Score, Ring of Lies, Single Galz, and Tempy Tempy Pushas.

In 2018, he starred in the LGBTQ US drama series About Him. His final television appearance came through the Mzansi political serial Ambitions with the role of Wandile Cibane.

Actor Luzuko Nteleko's death mourned. The star had an ongoing battle with brain cancer . From his Social Media

Shaleen Surtie-Richards

Thespian Shaleen Surtie-Richards died in her sleep on June, 7, 2021. She was 66.

Before making her television breakthrough, Surtie-Richards took many roles in several amateur stage productions between 1974 and 1981. Surtie-Richards became a household name through her starring role in Egoli: Place of Gold. She appeared in most of the show's 18-year run as Ester (Nenna) Willemse.

She also appeared in several television programmes, including 7de Laan, Villa Rosa, and Generations. In 2000, she hosted her talk show, Shaleen, on M-Net.

She appeared on local and international stages, and major theatre and arts festivals across South Africa and abroad.

She also featured on stage in works by Shakespeare, Willy Russell, Athol Fugard and Pieter-Dirk Uys.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards. Picture: Facebook

Nokuzola Mlengana

Skeem Saam actress Nokuzola Mlengana passed away on July 12, 2021. She joined the popular drama in 2014, playing the role of sis Ouma, a no-nonsense security guard, tough on mischievous boys and girls at the Gauteng University. She later moved to Turf University where she continued to ensure safety and security on the premises until her death.

Nokuzola Mlengana. Picture: Twitter

Lieb Bester

Veteran actor and musician Lieb Bester died on July, 21, 2021 due to Covid-19 related complications. He was 72.

Bester was best known for his role as Fritz Retief in kykNET's soap opera, Villa Rosa. He was also known for his starring role as Senior Superintendent George Lindeque in the thriller drama series Arsenaal, in 2002.

He starred in his first film Seun van die Wildtemmer in 1973 and appeared in a further 10 films by 1976 when television arrived in South Africa.

Bester acted in a number of the earliest South African television series, including Opdrag (Assignment), TJ 7, Phoenix en Kie (Phoenix and Co.) and the drama Dis Koud Hier (It's Cold Here).

He also featured in films Savage Encounter (1980) and Agter Elke Man (1990), as well as the television series Paradys, Soldier Soldier and Justice for All.


Sam Phillips

Celebrated actor, director, producer, writer, and music composer Sam Phillips died,72, died on January, 16, 2021.

With a career spanning over four decades, Philips starred in well-known productions including Phamokate, Backstage, Soul City, The Wild, and Isibaya.

He has also featured in international plays like Athol Fugard's Master Herold and The Boys in New Orleans.

He was an Oscar nominee for playing the lead in Senzeni na?, which was nominated for Best Short Story with the American Film Institution in 1990.

He also worked as a producer for Nna Sajene Kokobela and 102 Paradise Complex and composed music for 102 Paradise Complex, sung by Brenda Fassie.

Phillips wrote the lyrics for the feature Bopha!, directed by Morgan Freeman.

One of his latest notable roles was his character as the Masire family patriarch in the multi-award-winning Netflix series Kings Of Joburg.

Sam Phillips. Picture: Supplied

Jonas Gwangwa

Jazz musician, songwriter and producer Jonas Gwangwa died on January, 23, 2021, due to cardiac complications.

He was 83. The Soweto-born star first gained prominence playing the trombone with The Jazz Epistles.

Gwangwa moved to the US in the early 60s and formed part of the Sound Of Africa concert at Carnegie Hall featuring Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Letta Mbulu.

Gwangwa spent two decades living in Gaborone, Botswana, where he founded the band Shakawe. Gwangwa toured more than 40 countries with Amandla the musical, a story of South Africa's struggle against apartheid told in artistic musical form.

Cape Town:17/03/31 Jonas Gwangwa perfoming at Kippies stage during 18th Cape Town Internation Festival at the CTICC Picture Ayanda Ndamane

Steve Kekana

Legendary musician Steve Kekana died on July, 1, 2021 at a hospital in Limpopo. He lost his sight at the age of five and attended a school for the blind in Pietersburg (now Polokwane). Kekana discovered his passion for music during his teens, becoming a member of several amateur bands.

Kekana was described by fellow musicians and industry pals as a musical genius that popularised the African pop sound for decades. He worked with Nana Coyote, Ray Phiri, Babsie Mlangeni, Joe Nina and PJ Thandeka Powers.

He was an Advocate and a lecturer in Labour Law at the University of South Africa.

South Africa - Cape Town- 29 March 2019 Steve Kekana perfoming at the Jazz Festival at The Cape Town CTICC Photographer:Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Tsepo Tshola

Singer and composer Tsepo ‘ Village Pope’ Tshola died in Lesotho on July, 15, 2021 at Tshola succumbed to Covid-19-related illness in Teyateyaneng, Lesotho.

In 1975, Tshola and fellow musician Frank Leepa formed a band Uhuru. According to The Conversation, in the late 1970s, now as Sankomota, they were the house band at Maseru’s Victoria Hotel, entertaining luminaries such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, exiled from South Africa by their politics.

Together with Masekela, Tshola toured Southern Africa and London, where the rest of Sankomota joined him in 1985.

In the early 90’s he launched his solo career, releasing timeless hits such as Holokile, Akubutle and Shine Your Light. He also collaborated with Cassper Nyovest on a hit single Superman.

Killer Kau

Amapiano star Sakhile 'Killer Kau' Hlatshwayo died in a car accident on the way to a gig in Rustenburg on August, 7, 2021.

Hlatshwayo's music career started when he was still in high school. He rose to fame in 2017 following a freestyle video that went viral on social media. He then released a song “Thol’ukuthi Hey” that same year and never looked back.


Amapiano artist Mongezi ’Mpura’ Stuurman, was one of the five young musicians that lost their lives in a car crash near Rustenburg on August, 7, 2021. The young musos were making waves in the local music scenes, and their passing will go down in history as one of the heartbreaking accidents in the music industry.

Mpura is no more. Picture from his Instagram page.

The accident also claimed the lives of rising stars Thando Dot, DT and Khanya Hadebe.

Wandi Nzimande

Kaya FM resident DJ and co-founder of popular urban streetwear brand Loxion Kulca died on January 13, 2021, after contracting Covid-19. He was 44.

The iconic fashion brand’s founders Sechaba Mogale, Brian Abrahams honoured the legacy of Nzimande by joining forces with PEP stores. The deal was already in the pipelines before Nzimande’s passing.

Loxion Kulca collection It is available at more than 1000 PEP stores country-wide.

Themsie Times

On Friday, December 10, South Africa woke up to the sad news of veteran actor Themsie Times’ passing. According to 7de Laan publicity manager Kayleen Bessit, Times, 70 died on Thursday, December 9.

“It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Themsie Times, who played the role of Maria on 7de Laan. She was a phenomenal actress who warmed her way into our viewer's hearts and homes. Our deepest sympathies to Themsie's family, friends and fans at large,” read the statement.

Times warmed the times of many South Africans with her role of Maria Zibula. She played for 13 years before she retire in 2016.

She also features in other popular local shows including Yizo Yizo, Isithembiso, Madam & Eve, Isipho and Cry the Beloved Country.

22618/12/2011Ministry team from L-R Sijabule Behane, Themsie Times and Johanna Legodi at Rhema Church after the service.Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng