Veteran musician and producer Sello “Chicco” Twala has called on political leaders and arts authorities to name the Playhouse Theatre in Durban after Mbongeni Ngema.
Twala made this plea during the late veteran playwright’s provincial funeral service held at the International Convention Centre on Friday.
His call was met with a rousing approval by the audience and dignitaries. Among them were Sport and Arts and Culture minister Zizi Kodwa and KZN premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Passionate about plight of black people
Twala recalled how on two projects he collaborated with Ngema, he realised how much black lives mattered to the Sarafina! creator.
“During heightened political violence in the country between the ANC and IFP supporters, Mbongeni, Duma Ndlovu and myself came up with the Peace Song. [The song] did very well as proceeds went to the victims. We felt it was proper we stopped the violence through that song,” said Twala.
“At the request of then Transport minister Jeff Radebe, we worked on composing songs for the election campaign. During the time I worked closely with him, I realised that corruption really hurt Mbongeni. In his honour I would like us to fight corruption,” said the former struggle activist.
He praised Ngema and poet Mzwakhe Mbuli for fiercely standing up against apartheid oppressors. At the time, musicians like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa and Letta Mbulu were fighting in exile.
“His bravery inspired many of us like Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. [It gave them] courage to pen protest songs like Black President, Too Late For Mama and I Miss You Mandela. This was at the time when such songs were criminal.
Ngema the freedom fighter’s legacy continues
“Mbongeni was not scared of amabhunu (boers) and even showed them a middle finger. This led to Mama Winnie Mandela one day coming to my house and chastised me. She said: ‘how come a boy from KZN comes and do wonders here in Soweto while you are folding arms’,” said Twala.
The Stimela Sase Zola hitmaker’s legacy will be promoted through a Mbongeni Ngema Academy. A museum has been set up in Durban for this year. Sihle Bam, who worked with the late legend, disclosed that a college was to be launched on first week of April.
Arts exhibition, more projects planned in his honour
A six month exhibition had been planned to celebrate the works of creatives who were his contemporaries. These include African greats Youssou Ndou, Salif Keita, Mirriam Makeba. Also included are sports personalities like Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Mariah Lamola. On the list is also Nelson “Teenage” Dladla, who shaped South African football.
“He came up with all this because he was a passionate African historian who loved sharing history and knowledge. We are as committed as ever to continue with his legacy and projects,” said Bam.
Ex-wife Leleti Khumalo pays tribute
Ngema’s former wife, actress Leleti Khumalo, drew mixed emotions when she joined the old Sarafina! cast paying tribute on stage.
She praised him for introducing her to arts at a tender age. Also showering praise was actor Dumisani Dlamini, who played Crocodile on Sarafina! He jokingly said were it not for working with Ngema, he would not have had daughter Doja Cat, who is a famous US rapper and musician.
Black Mambazo does the ultimate honours in song
Five-time Grammy Award winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who once collaborated with Ngema on the song One Blood, paid tribute by singing Ofana Naye, Homeless and Ilungelo Ngelakho.
Among other mourners spotted included Moses Ngwenya of the Soul Brothers, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, Eugene Mthethwa of Trompies and Khanyo Maphumulo.