Condolences streaming in for renowned Mbongeni Ngema

Condolences are pouring in from all the corners of the world following the untimely death of legendary playwright and composer Mbongeni Ngema.

Sixty-eight-year-old Ngema was considered a remarkable African giant who used theater to relate the hardships and anguish endured by black people at the height of apartheid.

He closed the final chapter of his life lived abundantly on Wednesday evening when he was involved in a head-on collision on his way from a funeral in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape.

The accident happened in Bizana, the seat of the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela local municipality about three hours away from Mthatha.

Ngema carved indelible mark

Paying a tribute to Ngema on Thursday, KwaZulu-Natal premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: “Madlokovu [Ngema’s clan name] did mot only creatively conscientise South Africans about the political landscape in our country during apartheid but exported the story of the struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa to the world.

“His contribution carved indelible mark in our journey towards freedom.”

Ngema has been lauded for having an eye for raw talent and played a significant role in promoting and nurturing creative arts, opening up opportunities for rural and township talent.

Some of his recruits went on to become household names serenading audiences in small and big screens internationally.

Luminary in the arts

The ANC also mourned the tragic passing of Ngema, describing him as a patriot.

“The ANC expresses profound sorrow and extends heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Mbongeni Ngema,” said the governing party in a statement.

“A luminary in the arts, Ngema’s passing leaves an indelible void.”

Ngema, raised in the rural village of eNhlwathi outside the rural town of KwaHlabisa in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was known for trailblazing productions such as the award-winning epic musical Sarafina starring Leleti Khumalo.

He also produced and directed a world-acclaimed political play Woza Albert. He was also a musician and has recorded hits such as Stimela SaseZola.

Ngema’s long-time friend Joy Mbewana and president of the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation said Ngema’s passing is a heavy blow to the creative industry.

“I’m so hurt. The plans he had for the industry next year. His production Kente to Ngema rehearsals were starting next month, Mbongeni Ngema academy etc …,” said Mbewana.

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