Mbongeni Ngema (May 10, 1955 – December 27, 2023) was a South African playwright, lyricist, composer, director, choreographer, and theatre producer best known for co-writing the 1981 play Woza Albert! and the 1988 musical Sarafina! with Hugh Masekela.
He was known for writing plays that reflected the spirit of black South Africans during apartheid, and he received widespread acclaim for his work, but he was also the subject of several controversies.
His plays, including “Sarafina!” were part of South Africa’s artistic uprising against White rule.
Ngema co-wrote the backing vocals for “Take This Song,” a song recorded with the reggae band Third World.
In the same year, he released the album Freedom is Coming Tomorrow (Remix) with Emtee, Saudi, Gigi Lamayne, Tamarsha, Reason, Blaklez & DJ Machaba, and Third World, as well as a single, “Sophia.”
Mbongeni has received numerous awards throughout his career. Some of them include the Tony Award, the Grammy Award, the SAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, the 365 Men’s Award in 2023, and many others.
What happened to Mbongeni Ngema?
According to a family statement, Mr. Ngema was sitting in a car that was involved in a head-on collision in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. Mbongeni Ngema, the South African director of Whoopi Goldberg’s Sarafina!, died in a car accident in Mbizana at the age of 68.
He was on his way back from a funeral in Lusikisiki, South Africa. He was in the car as a passenger.
Ngema is best known for her work on the Broadway musical Sarafina!, which premiered in 1988 and was later adapted into a film starring Whoopi Goldberg in 1992.
Ngema worked as a vocal arranger for the Disney film The Lion King (1994) in addition to his work as a playwright.
Ngema granted a special funeral
Mbongeni Ngema, the legendary playwright, composer, and director, will be honored with a special provincial official funeral category 2.
KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa for bestowing this honor on Ngema.
The category is reserved for distinguished individuals who have been specifically designated by the President.
According to Dube-Ncube, Ngema was a true South African icon who used the creative arts to fight for the country’s current freedom.
His memorial service took place on Wednesday, and his funeral will take place on Friday.
Is Nhlanhla Ngema related to Mbongeni Ngema?
According to Mbongeni Ngema’s family, the late musician adored his family. His brother, Nhlanhla Ngema, told reporters in Durban that after their father died, Mbongeni took on the role of a parent and helped raise his siblings.
Leleti Khumalo, Mbongeni Ngema’s ex-wife, has paid tribute to the late veteran playwright. Ngema died soon after being treated by doctors in Adelaide and OR Tambo Memorial Hospital in Mbizana, Eastern Cape.
Khumalo sent her condolences to the Ngema family in an official tribute statement posted on her social media platforms.
“At this sad time, we send our heartfelt condolences to his family, and in the tradition of our culture, we would like to give them the space to grieve,” she wrote. May the Lord give them strength as they cope with this enormous loss. May his soul rest in peace.”