Winston Ntshona and John Kani in Athol Fugard's 'The Island' in 1986. Picture: Ruphin/File Photo

Local theatre legend and anti-apartheid activist Winston Ntshona passed away on Thursday morning after a long battle with illness. He was 76 years old.

Ntshona’s son Lawula confirmed the news of his death to Herald Live, saying: "We are just reeling in shock but we are coming together as a family." He added that his dad has been ill for several years. 

When news of his death broke, tributes immediately began pouring in on social media for the man best known for his work with actor John Kani and playwright Athol Fugard, with whom he founded the Serpent Players theatre group in Port Elizabeth in 1965. 

Ntshona starred alongside Kani in Athol Fugard's "The Island" as well as "Sizwe Banzi is Dead," which he co-wrote, and in an unusual move, both Kani and Ntshona were co-Tony Award winners for Best Actor for their work. Ntshona was also honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting at the 2011 SAFTAS.