‘Sarafina!’ producer dies in accident


Mbongeni Ngema, author of the award-winning musical Sarafina!died on Wednesday at the age of 68.

According to Ngema’s family, he died in a car accident in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. The car in which he was a passenger was involved in a head-on collision when he was returning from a funeral.

Ngema is best known for writing and directing the award-winning Sarafina!, the 1992 movie he developed with legendary jazz musician Hugh Masekela. The film was revived this year with a screening at the Cannes Film Festival and its release on streaming services.

A stage version of Sarafina! ran on New York’s Broadway for two years and was nominated for Tony and Grammy Awards.

Leleti Khumalo and Whoopi Goldberg played roles in the movie. Ngema also had a role in the movie. Ngema and Khumalo were married in 1992 and divorced in 2005.

Ngema also has the protest play with Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon Wow Albert written in 1981. He was also an actor, choreographer, composer and singer. His hit songs included “Stimela sa se Zola”, which was also made with Masekela.

Ngema was honored in 2018 at the 24th Sama Awards for his lifetime contribution.

Zizi Kodwa, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, expressed his sadness at the death of Ngema, who was born in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal. He said Ngema touched and moved audiences all over the world and made an important contribution to telling the South African story.

“With the death of Dr. Mbongeni Ngema South Africa has lost one of its great playwrights, composers, lyricists, directors and musicians. Dr. Ngema’s work has been celebrated in South Africa and internationally.”

Kodwa said Ngema’s passing is a significant loss for the South African arts.