Tributes are paid to the late South African theatre legend Mbongeni Ngema

Tributes are paid to the late South African theatre legend Mbongeni Ngema

Tributes are paid to the late South African theatre legend Mbongeni Ngema

Mbongeni Ngema, a 68-year-old South African playwright who perished in a vehicle accident, is currently the subject of tributes.

In the 1980s, his plays portraying the harsh realities of apartheid, a discriminatory system of governance, propelled him to global recognition. His works “embodied the spirit of resistance” during the period of white minority rule, according to his family. His musical Sarafina!, which was subsequently adapted into a film featuring Whoopi Goldberg, was Ngema’s most well-known work.

Honours were bestowed upon the playwright, composer, and theatrical director by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The South African leader stated that Ngema’s “extraordinarily imaginative account of our liberation struggle paid tribute to the humanity of subjugated South Africans” and “exposed the inhumanity” of the apartheid regime.

On Wednesday evening, while returning from a funeral in the town of Lusikisiki in the province of the Eastern Cape, he was killed in a head-on collision. Since the onset of December, car accidents in South Africa have claimed the lives of over 700 individuals.

Ngema, who was born in 1955, began his professional life in the 1970s as a supporting guitarist before transitioning to performing in local theatre productions. He subsequently collaborated on the co-writing of the 1981 Zulu play Woza Albert! (Rise Up Albert! ), in which an apartheid-era second advent of Jesus Christ is imagined.

On the stages of London and New York, the satirical piece became the standard for South African protest theatre both domestically and internationally. His subsequent musical, Asinimali! (Zulu for We don’t have money! ), demonstrated his extraordinary technical prowess as a producer.

Then, in 1987, he achieved success with Sarafina!, a film set during the Soweto Uprising that conveyed the revolutionary fervour of South African youth to an international audience. It was the subject of a 1992 blockbuster film adaptation.

Sophie Ndaba, a South African actress, predicted that Ngema would live on in the hearts of future generations. She expressed her gratitude on Instagram for the inspiration that her musical and artistic endeavours provided. Following the end of apartheid in 1994, a number of Ngema’s plays sparked controversy.

In 1995, in an effort to bring attention to the issue of HIV/Aids, which had been primarily disregarded throughout apartheid, he directed the film Sarafina 2. It was commissioned by the new government at an exorbitant cost of 14 million rand ($750,000; £590,000), which prompted an investigation by the public protector, South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog.

As determined by the investigation, the health department’s funding for the play was “unauthorised expenditure” and the production’s message regarding HIV/AIDS was insufficient.

Ngema was also embroiled in controversy in 2002 with his Zulu song AmaNdiya (meaning Indians), which levied allegations of bigotry and exploitation against the Indian community in South Africa.

The South African Broadcasting Complaints Commission prohibited its transmission on the grounds that it incited hostility.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s inaugural democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999 and a prominent figure against apartheid, implored Ngema to tender an apology.

“If he has offended anyone with prejudiced lyrics, I believe he can do no better than to apologise,” Mr. Mandela stated at the time. Ngema declined and denounced the prohibition, stating to the sources that the content accepted by artists should not be dictated by any authority.