Veteran actor Joe Mafela at an SABC party at The Venue in Melrose Arch in March 2011 to celebrate the winners of the SA Film and Television Awards. He died in a car crash at the weekend. Picture: Paballo Thekiso/Independent Media
“It's good, good, good, it’s good, it’s nice,” was the jingle that cemented the late legendary personality Joe Mafela’s name in households across the country.

The actor, who was also well known in the music world, became synonymous with these words as the face of fast-food outlet Chicken Licken’s television commercials in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the renowned comedic giant was acclaimed for dominating almost every sphere of the entertainment industry, with a career spanning decades.

This included starring roles in local movies, soapies and shows Sgudi ‘Snaysi, Going Up and Madam and Eve.

But at the age of 75, Mafela’s life was cut short when he died in a car crash on a Joburg highway.

Joburg metro police department spokesperson Superintendent Edna Mamonyane said he was travelling alone at the time and was confirmed dead at the accident scene on Saturday night.

She said the accident happened at around 9.45pm on the M1 between Houghton Drive and Oxford Road.

Mamonyane explained that Mafela collided with an Isuzu bakkie which hit his Ford Figo on the left side. “The bakkie then hit the barricade and damaged a rear tyre,” she added.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, Mafela was found unconscious. “They tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.”

Mamonyane said the family travelling in the bakkie were not injured in the collision.

Mafela was also not found with any injuries caused by the accident, but Mamonyane said the authorities would probe the incident.

“The matter is under investigation,” she added.

Mafela’s death sent shock waves across the country while #RIPJoeMafela continued to trend on Twitter for most of yesterday.

His nephew Anthony Mafela confirmed the news of his death by tweeting: “Sad news. My uncle Joe Mafela passed on last night.”

President Jacob Zuma yesterday expressed his sadness and sent condolences to the family. “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. May his soul rest in peace,” Zuma said.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa also conveyed his condolences to Mafela’s loved ones, describing him as a “great artist and a truly generous man” who made an invaluable contribution to the entertainment world.

“The nation has lost an extraordinary son of the soil.

“Joe Mafela is a household name to all of us, after he spent decades on the big and small screens acting out countless number of roles which showed his versatility.”

Mthethwa was joined by several other political parties, organisations and dignitaries who on Sunday mourned Mafela’s passing.

This includes the MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation Faith Mazibuko, who said she was also deeply saddened by Mafela’s death.

She praised him for his work in the arts. “We pay tribute to a doyen of the performing arts in South Africa, a great and prodigious talent, who throughout his life was dedicated as much to the development of society as to the development of the arts,” Mazibuko said.

These sentiments were echoed by Parliament, which said that the renowned personality was a source of inspiration to others.

“Mr Mafela was among the most outstanding actors whose talent was a source of inspiration and pride to generations of South Africans,” spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

“His passing is a devastating loss to the arts industry and the nation as a whole.”

Although the Limpopo-born star was most recently known for his role of Tebogo Moroka in the popular local soapie Generations: The Legacy, he had a long and illustrious career.

Mafela also dabbled in the music world. His popular hit Shebeleza was a theme song during the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament.

In 1974, he starred in South Africa’s first black feature film Udeliwe, which gained him a new following among movie-goers.

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. He also received an Emmy nomination. – Additional reporting by ANA