Playwright par excellence Mbongeni Ngema has passed away

Acclaimed award-winning artist and one of South Africa’s celebrated theater producers, director, composer and playwright Mbongeni Ngema has passed away.

Ngema, bred in the village of eNhlwathi near the rural town of KwaHlabisa in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was involved in a car accident on Wednesday.

It is believed that Ngema had been on his way back from a funeral service when he met his untimely death.

His nephew Sabelo said although Ngema was not the driver of the vehicle, he sustained severe injuries that led to his death. The crash happened in Bizana in the Eastern Cape.

Head-on collision

“The accident happened in Bizana where there was a burial of a relative,” said Sabelo, who explained that the family is still reeling with shock.

The 68-year-old began his career in the creative sector as a theater backing guitarist.

He is internationally known and respected for his song Stimela Sasezola, which continues to serenade audiences.

He is also the brains behind the musical drama Sarafina which brought to life the hardships experienced by black school children under apartheid.

Ngema also authored a South African political play titled Woza Albert in the 1980s.

In a statement, the family said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband, and a patriot Mbongeni Ngema.

“Ngema was killed in a head-on car accident while returning from attending a funeral in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape this evening. He was a passenger in the vehicle.”

Walk of Fame

In 1998, Ngema was inducted in the New York “Walk of Fame” in front of the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Manhattan, New York City, as one of the revered writers of the 21st century.

In 2001 during the African Renaissance Festival, his name was engraved on the entrance of the City Hall in Durban alongside those of former president Nelson Mandela, late ANC leader Oliver Tambo, and seasoned musician Miriam Makeba, as well as other heroes of the liberation struggle.

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