DIASPORAGENERAL NEWS

Sarafina’ Playwright Mbongeni Ngema Dies in Fatal Car Crash

Mbongeni Ngema, the esteemed playwright known for his work on the acclaimed musical “Sarafina,” depicting student protests in apartheid-era Soweto, tragically lost his life in a car crash at the age of 68. The family confirmed his passing in a statement, revealing that Ngema was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a head-on collision while returning from attending a funeral in the Eastern Cape province.

Sarafina' Playwright Mbongeni Ngema Dies in Fatal Car Crash: Photo courtesy
Sarafina’ Playwright Mbongeni Ngema Dies in Fatal Car Crash: Photo courtesy

The news of Ngema’s death comes at a time when the 1992 movie “Sarafina,” created in collaboration with jazz legend Hugh Masekela, was experiencing a resurgence, featuring a screening at the Cannes Film Festival classic section and a subsequent streaming release.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband, and patriot

, Mbongeni Ngema,” the family stated.

“Sarafina” not only propelled Ngema to pan-African music stardom but also garnered acclaim on Broadway, earning nominations for Tony and Grammy awards. The film adaptation starred Leleti Khumalo, who had been part of the stage production and later married Ngema, along with Whoopi Goldberg.

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Ngema’s artistic contributions extended beyond “Sarafina.” He co-wrote the 1981 play “Woza Albert,” offering a satirical perspective on the challenges faced by black people in apartheid-era South Africa. The play toured Europe and North America.

The family highlighted that Ngema’s works “reflected the spirit of resistance” during the apartheid and liberation struggle. In addition to his role as a playwright, Ngema was an actor, choreographer, composer, and singer. Some of his hit songs, including “Stimela sa se Zola,” were collaborations with Hugh Masekela.

It’s worth noting that in 2020, one of Ngema’s ex-wives made allegations of sexual abuse against him in a book.

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Ken Maasai

Ken Wakuraya is a seasoned Journalist with official accreditation from the Media Council of Kenya, possessing extensive expertise in covering political, Entertainment, and Human interest stories.

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