Joe “Sdumo” Mafela, South African TV and theatre legend, has died at the age of 75. There has been an outpouring of condolences and messages from across the country from those touched by his work.
South Africans fondly remember him for conceptualising and starring in early Chicken Licken television advertisements, and writing the “It’s good, good, good, it’s good it’s nice” jingle in 1986.
Mafela released the album Shebeleza Felas, with the popular hit Shebeleza (Okongo Mame) a decade later, and it was a huge success, with Shebeleza becoming the theme song at the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996.
The legendary actor and director had numerous awards to his name, including the Lifetime Achievement award at the Naledi Theatre Awards in 2005, and another Lifetime Achievement Award at the Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards two years ago.
Mafela was 75, and reportedly died in a car accident – with speculation that he had a heart attack before losing control of his vehicle last night.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa wrote: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the news of the passing of legendary Actor, Director & Musician ubaba Joe Mafela.
“ We extend our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of ubaba Joe Mafela , the nation has lost a crown jewel of our arts & culture. ”
Some other tweets:
Rest In Peace Joe Mafela. He made us laugh during South Africa’s dark past. May we never forget him or his work. – Khaya Dlanga
#Legendary Joe Mafela #africa has lost one one of its biggest actors… #ripjoemafela – Nkomesha Litunga
Joe Mafela kept us entertained…Sgudi Snays, Going Up, Khululeka, Madam & Eve, man I haven’t felt this sad in a very long time. RIP legend – Serurubele
Life of a legend
Mafela was born in Sibasa, Limpopo, and raised in Kliptown and Tshiawelo, Soweto.
In 1974, he starred in South Africa’s first black feature film, Udeliwe, which gained him a new following among moviegoers.
During the 1980s, his television career blossomed with ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi. He also became a creative director in the advertising industry and also focused on producing. He became a co-owner of Penguin Films.
He began releasing highly successful musical albums. He won numerous awards, including a Loerie for his advertising work and best actor in comedy at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs).
He also received an Emmy nomination. In recent times, he acted on Generations: the Legacy.
About his sustained success, in an interview he once said: “Acting was never about fame and money. It has been about passion. That is why some of us are still here 50 years on.”
Welcome Msomi, the chairperson of the Living Legends Legacy Programme (an initiative of the Department of Arts and Culture), said he had been working with Mafela since the programme’s inception.
“Through the programme, he has been instrumental in the shaping of young actors and actresses in the KwaMashu community arts centre and at the Market Theatre incubator.
“He was also a great contributor to the establishment of the LLLP committee. He was full of life and loving compassion for the development of the sector. We have lost a treasure,” said Msomi