Pretoria — President Jacob Zuma has sent condolences on the passing of legendary actor and filmmaker Joe Mafela, who died in a car accident on Saturday.
"We have learned with sadness of the passing of one of the pioneers of television comedy loved by all South Africans, young and old. Mr Mafela, also affectionately known as Sdumo, was also a television producer and songwriter.
"The arts and culture industry has been robbed of a bigger than life figure. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Mafela family. May his soul rest in peace," said President Zuma.
Mafela had an illustrious career in film, television and stage. He made his acting debut in 1964 when he appeared in the feature movie Real News.
He starred in the isiZulu sitcom 'Sgudi 'Snaysi (colloquial for "it's good, it's nice"), in which he played the character of Sdumo. This sitcom became a major hit in its time.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa also paid tribute to Mafela.
"We are shocked and saddened by the passing of a great artist and a truly generous man, Baba Joe Mafela. The nation has lost an extraordinary son of the soil.
"He was multi-talented and multi-skilled, much loved and much revered. We salute his lifelong contribution to South African arts and culture. We convey our strength and heartfelt condolences to the Mafela family, his friends and numerous fans.
"Joe Mafela is a household name to all of us, as he spent decades on the big and small screens acting out a countless number of roles, which showed his versatility as an actor.
"His role as the character Sdumo remains in the consciousness and cultural imagination of the nation as a whole.
"He was also a producer, director, advertising director and musician, whose hit songs, including Shebeleza, came to dominate the air waves," Minister Mthethwa said.
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.