‘We weren’t consulted about burial’ – Mbongeni Ngema’s family

Drama is unfolding following the death of legendary playwright Mbongeni Ngema. Ngema’s family says they have not received clear communication regarding the family memorial service. The event was supposed to be held at the KwaNgema eMfana Homestead.

This is a different memorial service to the public one that was held on Wednesday at the Playhouse Company in Durban. The event was attended by dignitaries including former president Jacob Zuma and industry bigwigs.

The family claims that the Ngema family spokesperson Nhlanhla Ngema said nothing to them about the memorial service and funeral details.

Family not pleased with how matters are handled

This is contained in a letter written to the KwaZulu-Natal office of the premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube. The Ngema family from eMfana, eNhlwathi KwaHlabisa, says they are not pleased with how matters relating to Mbongeni’s burial are being handled.

“To this date, the family knows nothing formally about the memorial service which was supposed to be held at KwaNgema eMfana Homestead (04/01/2024) as discussed in a brief meeting that was held on Sunday (31/12/2023),” reads the letter.

Lack of transparency

“As a result, the family, together with the community, there has been a huge negative stress that has been caused by the lack of transparency (sic).”

The Ngema family said during the funeral arrangements meeting, one of the things that were discussed was that there would be a memorial service held at eMfana.

This is Ngema’s home, where all necessary services would have been provided by the provincial government, including the tent and catering, among other things.

“It is with disappointment that none of that was delivered in eMfana. People have flooded the home in KwaNgema. [But] only the police have come to monitor the situation as instructed by Brigadier Mhlongo under Ezibayeni SAPS.

“There is no tent for shelter, no ablution facilities, no catering services for the people who have come to the memorial service. This has caused great distress and concern in the family (eMfana) and the entire mourners.”

KwaNgema eMfana Homestead

The Ngema family also states that they are a big family, with elders remaining in eMfana. They say family elders to date know nothing about details of the burial of the late playwright.

They were concerned with who and how decisions were taken “in a place that we do not even know”.

This was because Ngema had not declared to the family that he had another home in Durban, Queensburg.

We lied to the community

“The community came to mourn with us, and we told them that there would be a memorial service. Community leaders feel that we lied to the community of eNhlwathi, Mission area.

“As a family of eMfana eNhlwathi we strongly believe that if there were any conflicts and misunderstandings, … there should have been a way for both parties sitting down as a family to discuss the solution prior to the final decision.”

The family has also disputed the family spokesperson’s version that Ngema would be laid to rest at Heroes Acres. 

“We as the eMfana kwaNgema family, understand that Dr Mbongeni Ngema lived his life through his work.”

Evidence in a song

The family has even quoted a song that Ngema wrote.

In the song Ngema says: “Ngosuku engofa ngalo ningisize nibongigcwaba eMfana KwaNgema eNhlwathi. (On the day I die, assist by burying me Emfana, KwaNgema eNhlwathi). Ningisize ningakushintsi lokho noma ngabe ngingasekho kodwa ningakushintshi lokho. (Don’t change that even though I would have died, don’t change that).”

Earlier this week, a woman who claims to be the late playwright’s customary wife  threatened to interdict the government from organising his burial.

‘Wife’ threatens to disrupt funeral

Yolanda “Wanda” Moncho says she will make good of her threat should she be excluded from Ngema’s funeral preparations. She demands the government to recognise her as Ngema’s wife in its funeral programme.

Moncho also says she is pregnant with Ngema’s child. She also demands that government to stops speaking to Ngema’s younger brother Nhlanhla Ngema regarding the funeral arrangements.

Moncho detailed all in a lawyers’ letter dated January 2 2024, which Sunday World has seen. The letter was directed to the office of the premier Dube-Ncube, Moncho. It states that she wants to be the one spoken to regarding the funeral. 

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