5 Celebs gone too soon in 2023

Zahara. Picture: Instagram

Zahara. Picture: Instagram

Published Dec 14, 2023


The 2023 festive season got off to a sad start as news broke of multi-award-winning artist Bulelwa “Zahara” Mkutukana’s death.

The singer and songwriter, who was well known for her unmatched vocals and seamless guitar talents, died on December 11, leaving her family, fans and industry friends devastated.

Her family confirmed her untimely death on her social media platforms, but have not disclosed her cause of death.

Bulelwa Mkutukana. Picture: Leon Lestrade

“It is with heavy hearts and the deepest sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved daughter, sister, and friend, Zahara.

“A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered. May we remember Zahara not with sorrow, but with stories of healing, joy, kindness, and inspiration she brought to us through her life and her music,” a part of their announcement read.

The Afrosoul artist’s memorial service took place on December 14. The date of funeral is yet to be announced.

Zahara was not the only talent who was called to rest this year. Let’s take a look at other South African celebrity deaths that left a void in the entertainment industry.

Kiernan “AKA” Forbes

Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, better known by his stage name AKA. Picture: David Ritchie

The multi-award-winning rapper and music producer was shot dead outside the Wish Restaurant, Florida Road, Durban, on February 10, along with his long-time friend, Tebello Motsoane, popularly known as Tibz.

The “Mass Country” hitmaker’s tragic death was confirmed by his parents, Tony and Lynn Forbes, shortly after.

“To us, Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, was a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend, most importantly father to his beloved daughter Kairo. To many he was AKA, SUPAMEGA, BHOVA and the many other names of affection his legion of fans called him by,” read the statement.

Later, AKA’s fans where given the chance to celebrate the icon’s life at a mega memorial service held at the Sandton Convention Centre.

To date, investigations into his murder have been slow and his killers have yet to be arrested.

Costa Titch

Costa Titch. Picture: Instagram

A month after AKA’s death, multi-award-winning rapper Costa Titch, real name Constantinos Tsobanoglou, died.

He collapsed on stage at the Ultra SA music festival in Johannesburg at the Expo Centre in Nasrec.

The “Big Flexa” hitmaker was on the cusp of a great career, having just partnered with American artist Akon.

Titch and AKA had also worked together on “You’re Welcome” in 2021.

Mark Pilgrim

FILE: Mark Pilgrim. Picture: Neil Baynes

The veteran radio personality Mark Pilgrim, 53, also died in March, following a long battle of cancer. He had spend 64 days in hospital prior to his death.

Pilgrim was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2022, which he later revealed had spread to his femur, the base of his spine and lymph nodes.

It was not the first time the radio personality developed cancer. He was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1988. After surgery and months-long chemotherapy he was declared in remission.

Despite his condition, Pilgrim made sure he kept in high spirits and kept his fans and followers in the loop on his progress at all times.

Derek Watts

The late “Carte Blanche” presenter Derek Watts. Picture: File

Renowned South African TV anchor Derek Watts also succumbed to cancer on August 22.

He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2022 that had later spread to his lungs.

Watts, renowned for his distinguished career spanning over 35 years on “Carte Blanche”, spoke candidly about his battle with cancer.

A month earlier he had announced that he would not be returning to the long-running investigative journalism show as he needed to focus on his recovery.

Despite his condition, he always kept his fans updated and kept his spirits high.

At Watts’s memorial, his friends, family and former “Cart Blanche” colleagues, Devi Sankaree Govender and Bongani Bingwa, paid tribute to the “gentle giant”.