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Wednesday, 03 January 2024 11:34

Mbongeni Ngemi described as a pioneer of change as Zuma makes a celebrity entrance.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Photo Credit: Sandile Ndlovu.

Legendary playwright, theatre director and musician Mbongeni Ngema was honoured at a memorial service at the The PlayHouse in Durban on Wednesday. 

Ngema was killed in a head-on collision in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape while returning from a funeral.

On Monday KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube announced that a special provincial official funeral category 2 would be held for Ngema.

Dube-Ncube has expressed her gratitude to President Cyril Ramaphosa for granting the legendary and internationally acclaimed playwright, composer, director and theatre producer, Ngema, a Special Provincial Official Funeral

She said Ngema distinguished himself as a true South African legend, who used creative art and theatre to contribute to the fight for freedom the country is enjoying today.

"We made the request to the President to declare Ngema's send-off a Special Provincial Official Funeral primarily to recognise his contribution to our long and painful journey to freedom."

The Premier said while Ngema has passed away, this noble gesture by the President will give the family and many South Africans some comfort that he received a send-off befitting his stature.

Many musicians trained by Ngema and those inspired by him, mourners, friends and family, dignitaries, and politicians, including Dube-Ncube, Economic Development MEC Siboniso Duma and former president Jacob Zuma gathered and remembered him.  .

Dube-Ncube said during the memorial service that Ngema was a pioneer of change and his work evoked emotion. 

She says Ngema played a critical role in shaping communities and it's everyone's responsibility to preserve his legacy.

"Our country would not be where it is today if it was not for this industry having to highlight the plight of the poor people and the apartheid regime and all the atrocities. So, it's important that at this time, we really look back and say, as a community, are we really doing all to support this industry."

Amongst those who are celebrating Ngema's life is the original cast of Sarafina which is a musical film depicting the June 1976 students who were involved in the Soweto riot opposing apartheid.

Dr. Yaakov Ashantewaa-Ngidi of the Institute of Africology praised Ngema for fighting oppression and placing South Africa on the global map through his creativity in arts.

"I come here as the Baobab of the information, indigenous information of what we call the Apartheid Regime. I was with him a couple of days ago after he got an award. I am so grateful that today we are getting a chance to honour him. He has been honoured in Atlanta, in Jamaica, Barbados. So, he wasn't just a man from KZN but a man from the Africa Diaspora and for that we want to say thank you South Africa."

His long-time friend Vusi Mvelase has described the legendary playwright and musician as a transformational artist who weaved change into South Africa during apartheid.

Ngema was also planning to write a play about the life of Zuma.

The former president arrived late at the memorial service, attracted attention of the mourners, who cheered much of disrespect of the deceased family.  

Zuma said Ngema had a long time trying to convince him to write a play about his life, and he refused and later agreed. 

"When I refused, he convinced my wife maNgema who is his relative and after I received many requests. I considered him because Mbongeni knew me for a long time."  

"He asked to write it down and requested a week to do it. I told him that we would do it after the Christmas holidays, and I was waiting for him to tell him my story and unfortunately, he is no more," he said.

Zuma also praised Ngema for being a polygamist like him.   

Ngema is known for writing plays about the life of freedom fighters as he wrote endless plays like Asinamali, which was about the struggle of the late fighter Msizi Dube.  

Zuma recently announced that he would cast his ballot for the newly registered Umkhonto we Sizwe, despite remaining a member of the ANC.

The announcement has triggered a heated debate among many South Africans. While some found it confusing to some extent, others were threatened by it. Acting out of fear, hysteria, and anger, some politicians opted to go to social media to express themselves.

Zuma deliberately made his announcement on the day that MK was launched in 1961. 

Fikile Mbalula, the ANC's secretary-general, has hinted that the party is considering litigating against the use of MK. 

Ngema's younger brother Nhlanhla Ngema said their parents had seven children, but now only two remain, him and his sister Nompumelelo. 

The Sarafina maker will be laid to rest on Friday, 5 January, in Durban. His funeral service will be held at the Durban ICC.  

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Video Courtesy of IceboLethu Group.