‘I want to continue with Simba’s legacy,” said Top Billing presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee as he paid tribute to his best friend, Simba Mhere, who died in a car accident three years ago.
Tonight spoke to Boynton-Lee on the anniversary of Simba’s death. It was also the day before the court delivered the guilty verdict to the man who killed the Top Billing presenter and his friend, Kady Shay, one fateful Saturday morning.
The case has been dragging on for three years, with the driver of the car responsible for the accident - driving at 160km/h in a 60km zone -claiming brake failure.“We all hope that justice will prevail in this case so the family can have some kind of closure,” said Boynton-Lee, who met Mhere in 2012.
“People always apologise whenever we speak about Simba, but I actually love talking about him; that’s how you keep his memory alive,” he said.
Taking us down memory lane, he pulled out his phone to show us some of Simba’s final social media posts.
“His last days were very strange - even the video that we shot, it was almost like a farewell.
“We spent that weekend together in Harties with a bunch of friends. I will forever be grateful for that. We went back to visit the spot again this past weekend.
“They say you kind of know when it’s time. Apparently with Kady, as well, she had just finished her will, wrapped up some documents, like she was kind of closing a chapter in her life... it’s weird.”
With tears welling in his eyes, Boynton-Lee spoke about the business he and Mhere started, Half Man Half Amazing Productions, focusing on talent development, television and film production. The company name is the nickname Mhere gave himself. Boynton-Lee has now partnered with actor and comedian Siv Ngesi, who was also Mhere’s good friend.
“Simba is my silent partner in this business; he’s the boss, the CEO,” Boynton-Lee said.
“I am not a business person, when it comes to numbers, money, fame - all of that means nothing to me. I love changing people’s lives, which is one of the reasons why Simba and I got on so well. I honestly feel that there’s a greater power running this business. Simba was always the one who was business- minded.
“Just before his death Simba was about to launch a clothing and accessory range. He was designing gentlemen’s accessories - cufflinks and tie clips. Simba was very stylish, hence he won all the style awards.”
The two hit it off immediately because they had so much in common, Boynton-Lee said.
“When I joined Top Billing, Simba took me under his wing. I was completely lost in the beginning. I had never presented before and I was on one of the biggest shows in the country.”
The two presenters used to commiserate with one another and complain about their working conditions, but they always ended up agreeing that they actually had the best job in the world, Boynton-Lee reminisced.
“We were booked to do the last Presenter Search together but he died just before the show started.”
Mhere won the You Spectacular Best Presenter in 2014. The following year, Boynton-Lee won it and dedicated the award to Mhere. “I always dedicate everything to Simba, because he was such a big part of my life,” Boynton-Lee said.
Asked if he thought he would be where he is today after winning the presenter search, he replied, “It’s crazy what’s happened in such a short space of time. It hasn’t even been five years. It’s crazy to think of winning Strictly come Dancing.
"That was a miracle, and it made me realise that anything is possible. I got the lowest score in the history of the show in the first three weeks. Every week I was, like, please stop voting for me! But the support has been amazing.
“I have always been in the industry, that’s the funny thing. It’s weird how people behind the camera don’t get the recognition.
“Just before Top Billing, I directed a movie called Jozi Kings, which did very well and won a few international awards. I was directing commercials and I won a Loerie award. I was also doing very well in theatre.
“I have always been in acting and directing. I directed a lot of music videos for big local guys like Danny K and HHP. I was doing amazingly well behind the camera, but no one sees the faces behind the camera,” he reflected.
Describing his plans for 2018, Boynton-Lee said, “Hopefully I will have three movies on the big screen at the same time. There’s Baby Mamas, which should be released mid-year, Three Days, which should be released in August/September, and a horror movie.
“It’s really awesome because they are all proudly South African movies.”
Baby Mamas will be screened at the Toronto Black Film Festival this month.
* Catch Top Billing every Thursday at 8:30pm on SABC3.