Welcome Msomi, who died on Saturday, was found guilty on 61 counts of theft after he was charged and tried for embezzling R8 million.
Welcome Msomi, who died on Saturday, was found guilty on 61 counts of theft after he was charged and tried for embezzling R8 million.

Welcome Msomi's legacy tainted by R8m theft conviction

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Jul 6, 2020

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The death of veteran playwright Welcome Msomi comes at a time when his legacy was tainted.

Msomi died on Saturday at the age of 76.

In October, he was found guilty on 61 counts of theft after he was charged and tried for embezzling R8 million while he served as chair of the Living Legends Legacy Programme.

The Legends Trust was started by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the department had pledged R20million in total, with the R8m paid over to the trust.

The trust was set up in response to the challenges faced by the living legends in relation to the access of opportunities available to them. Msomi was part of the committee and one of three signatories.

Msomi was supposed to be sentenced in November, but due to ill health and an alleged debilitating stroke, he was unable to appear in court.

Before being marred by the scandal, Msomi was a cultural icon of Zulu theatre. His most renowned work uMabatha, the Macbeth adaptation, was critically acclaimed and performed in different parts of the world. He was a nominee for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer. Msomi started the Izulu Dance Theatre and Music in Durban in 1965.

He wrote his first book at the age of 15; and went on to make his name in Zulu literature as well as South African Theatre. He wrote and performed plays on Radio Bantu (Ukhozi FM).

“Welcome was a giant, full of ideas who always wanted to take arts and culture to another level. Always searching for ways to do better for South African arts and culture. He was a show runner, a dreamer and a visionary,” said TV producer Duma ka Ndlovu.

Msomi owned his own recording label and in the latter part of his life served on various boards and was active in the public relations industry.

In 2012, Msomi was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre from the Arts & Culture Trust.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called him a cultural stalwart.

“We have lost a cultural stalwart whose creativity gave depth, colour and lyricism to South Africa’s dramatic and complex history.

“While Welcome Msomi was exceptionally talented as an individual, he dedicated his energy, time and resources to the development of new generations of performers who would celebrate and showcase our nation’s cultural diversity.”

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