Joe Mafela will be sorely missed in the SA entertainment industry

Joe Mafela[notice]Neziswa Kanju, who attended Joe Mafela’s memorial service yesterday, reports on the tragic death of the much-loved actor and reflects on his long and influential career.[/notice]

Veteran actor Joe Mafela died in a tragic car accident on the M1 North between the Oxford and Houghton turn-offs in Johannesburg at approximately 9.45pm on March 18 2017.

His Ford Figo collided with a bakkie. The accident took place in a construction zone. The bakkie hit the Ford which caused damage to the left hand side of the car.

Mafela‚ was declared dead by paramedics on the scene. His death may have been as a result of a medical condition that was brought on during the accident. An investigation into this is underway.

Family spokesperson Millicent ‘Milly’ Mulelu said that the family was still shocked by the news of his passing.

“Joe’s side of the car was untouched in the accident, so for us to then find out that he had died was a massive shock‚ but we are a praying family and we have been praying for strength and understanding in the hours since the accident‚” she added.

For over five decades Joe ‘Sdumo’ Mafela touched many lives through his work as a producer, comedian, actor and musician on local television and film.

Mafela was born in Sibasa,Venda in 1941. His family soon moved to Soweto Johannesburg where Mafela was raised in Jabavu.

He started as a theory writer in 1960 and then became a professional in theatre in 1964. In 1974 Mafela co-starred in South Africa’s first black feature film, Udeliwe with Cynthia Shange.

Mafela became a household name because of his breakout role Sdumo in the iconic comedy South African classic Sgudi Snaysi.

He wrote; produced and directed many productions from his award winning company Penguin Films.

Roberta Durrant who shared many producer and director credits with Mafela on many television and film productions is the one who discovered Mafela and gave him the role of Sdumo in Sgudi Snaysi.

With his catchy phrase “Sgud gud gud, sgudi snaysi” Mafela introduced the Chicken Licken brand to the country. Many still remember the many skits that he played for the brand that further cemented South Africa’s love for him.

Joe Mafela was a well-known presence in the South African entertainment space and won many awards. He was often referred to as South Africa’s very own “Bill Cosby”.

Many comedians have shared how it was Mafela who inspired their love for comedy. Mafela kept many in stitches while watching Sgudi Snaysi, Madam and Eve, Khululeka and Going Up, among others.

The comedy scene in South Africa has grown in leaps and bounds but it was Joe who spearheaded this genre that endeared him to South Africans young and old. He was South Africa’s original king of comedy.

Mafela also showed his range by playing dramatic roles in Isibaya and Generations his last acting work.

He surprised many with his performance in the thriller Retribution.

Mfundi Mvundla the creator of the popular soap Generations announced that the SABC Studio 5 at Auckland Park where Generations the Legacy is filmed will be renamed the Joe Mafela Studio.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mafela also produced music albums through Gallo Records. His most popular song Shebeleza (Congo) became the theme song during the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996.

Joe Mafela’s memorial was held yesterday (March 23) at Joburg Theatre. His close friend and colleague Cynthia Shange, who knew him for more than 43 years was one of the speakers. She used the platform to draw attention to the plight of artists in the country, saying: “We are not happy”.

Part of her unhappiness is due to the struggle that actors face. She said most talents are never on “permanent” but are always freelancers, She said she, for instance, has been on Muvhango for 18years but has never been seen as a permanent.

Memorial service controversy
The death of Mafela is plagued by controversies. News of his memorial trended on Wednesday and Thursday and at the heart of the controversies was the fact that Grace Bible Church (GBC) charged the Mafela family R89 000 to have the memorial hosted there.

Social media seemed to be divided with some saying that the church was right in charging that amount as it is a 7 000-seater and for any event the church has to hire personnel, hire sound and use electricity. They drew attention to the fact that Mafela was not a member of GBN and therefore did not qualify to have a function there for free.

On the other side of the debate are the ones who are disgusted at the church “for turning the church into a money-making business”. Their argument is that any church exists within a community and should be there to serve the needs of that community. GBC charging this “exorbitant amount” was contrary to that ideal, they said.

What was interesting to note was, how even Christians were divided on this debate. Should churches charge exorbitant fees to host events? Should they not serve the community?

While many debate the expectations they have of the church, Mafela’s family, friends, colleagues and many fans continue to mourn. His presence will be sorely missed in the entertainment industry.

Premier David Makhura says the provincial government and the late Joe Mafela’s family are still in discussion about giving him a “fitting farewell”.

He had an important impact on the lives of ordinary people and families across the length and breadth of the country. He was a celebrated actor and musician. Whatever form the funeral will take I have no doubt that as the Gauteng provincial government working with the family we would like to give him a fitting farewell.” PAC spokesman Kenneth Mokgatlhe said the party demanded that Mafela, who died at the weekend, be given a provincial funeral.

Here are the funeral details:
Date: March 28 2017
Venue: University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus
Time: 9am – 12pm.

Joe Mafela leaves behind his wife, three sons and a daughter, and six grandchildren.

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