Nelson Mandela once said that no-one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. South African musicians may therefore know more than a thing or two about the country.
South Africa has exceptionally high rates of crime and it comes as no surprise that many of our most beloved musicians have crossed over onto the wrong side of the law and landed themselves in hot water. Whether by driving paralytically drunk or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, some have swapped the spotlight for the flashing blue light.
This week we donned our investigative reporting hats and dug out the rap sheets on some of South Africa's best known musicians and performers. It should be noted that this list is far from exhaustive and, in fact, we avoided sharing the worst with you.
Robbery: We begin with Mzwakhe Mbuli, a supposedly devout former deacon at the Apostolic Faith Mission Church in Soweto. He was known as 'The People's Poet', and enjoyed a place at the top of the mbaqanga heap.
All that came crashing down in 1997 when he was arrested, charged and convicted for robbing a bank in Waverly, Pretoria. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison although the evidence appeared to be largely circumstantial. Mbuli was released from Leeuwkop prison in 2003. (It should be noted that Mbuli always maintained his innocence and insisted he was framed.)
Driving under the influence: Arno Carstens has enjoyed great success as the front man for the Springbok Nude Girls and as a solo artist. Bouncing between Johannesburg and London he has managed to release seven solo albums and has collaborated with some of the biggest international acts in the world including the Police, The Rolling Stones, Simple Minds and Ultravox. He also featured as the lead vocalist and co-writer on Mike + The Mechanics 2011 album The Road.
Of course, with fame often comes alcohol abuse, and Arno was arrested in Cape Town in 2011 for driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.20 (the legal limit is 0.08). Officers noticed his black Mercedes swerving across the road erratically. The trial has been postponed a number of times and has yet to be decided.
Assault: Kelly Khumalo, the beautiful and talented singer and actress, was arrested in 2013 for assaulting the wife of Orlando Pirates goalkeeper, Senzo Meyiwa. City Press reported that Khumalo found Meyiwa and his wife Mandisa chatting at the side of Empire Road in Johannesburg. She stopped the car and, together with her sister who had been travelling with her, physically assaulted Mandisa.
While cooling off in a jail cell, Khumalo began tweeting in tongues. One tweet read "Rabakashanda rabosiya ekhelemende. Rebesiya! Fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire." We all love irony, and this case is no exception. Just one year prior, Khumalo had become a staunch advocate against domestic violence. Apparently if it is on the side of the road in Gauteng, it doesn't count as domestic.
Piracy: Jack Parow is definitely our favourite Afrikaans rapper and his larger than life persona and drunk lout image is obviously finely crafted. We say this because only a year ago, shortly before the 2013 Oppikoppi music festival, Parow was supposedly arrested for stealing a catamaran at the Vaalkop dam and sailing it away under cover of darkness while blind drunk. It turned out that the advertising agency FoxP2 had dreamed up the stunt to promote Captain Morgan rum!
Affray, or "Wrong Place, Wrong People, and Wrong Time": Famed musician and producer Sello "Chicco" Twala had the misfortune of managing Brenda Fassie at her most volatile. He landed up paying dearly for the gig.
In 2003, he interposed himself between Fasie and her lover Sindisiwe Khambule while they duked it out at a nightclub in Johannesburg. Chicco, along with the feuding couple, were landed in jail for the night. The following day, Fassie gave an interview to the City Press newspaper during which she apparently snorted a line of cocaine.
Speeding: It appears that there is a competitive spirit amongst South African musicians on this front. Steve Hofmeyr, the controversial and polarising pop singer, was arrested in Bronkhorstspruit for driving at 169kmph (105mph) in an 80kmph (50mph) zone. Not to be outdone, R&B Singer Donald Moatshe was nabbed on the N2 in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal clocking 182kmph (113mph) in a 120kmph (75mph) zone which landed him in jail.
Drug possession: A classic rock star trip(up).You would think musicians would be clamouring to get into this category, but this week all we have for you is an unconfirmed story about Watkin Tudor Jones a.k.a. Waddy Jones a.k.a. Ninja from the highly controversial Afrikaans gangster rap group Die Antwoord.
Apparently, Waddy attended a legalise marijuana rally outside parliament in Cape Town. Dressed in camo gear and carrying a Djemebe drum and a bag of weed, Waddy rolled a large joint as police arrived. If it is true, his rhythm may be great but his timing is awful.
International visa violation: Koos Kombuis, the anti-establishment Afrikaner maverick synonymous with the anti-apartheid Voëlvry movement, ran afoul of the law in Namibia while on a short musical tour and vacation.
He was arrested at Walvis Bay airport for overstaying his visitor's visa. He appeared in a magistrates court and was immediately acquitted. He should have demanded an apology from the Namibian government for being forced to stay an extra day.
Fraud, or "The Strange Case of Reanimation": In December 2009, Khulekani Mgqumeni "Kwakhe" Khumalo succumbed to "ill health" and died. The 27-year-old had enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of Zulu Maskandi, a traditional musical style. His fifth and final album had already sold 78,000 copies at the time of his death. In 2012, a man claiming to be Kwakhe came home to his family.
He claimed that "zombies" had held him captive. He claimed that the undead had shaved off his dreadlocks and threatened to knock a nail into his head. His family accepted him and his grandmother and sister vouched that this was indeed the Kwakhe they had buried, even though he looked different and refused to sing or play any music. Police arrested the imposter and charged him with fraud after taking DNA and fingerprint evidence. I guess Kwakhe II hadn't thought of those finer details in his plot to inherit the fortune amassed by Kwakhe I.
Evasive manoeuvres: Zolani Mkiva, Nelson Mandela's praise singer and South African poet laureate, was arrested by the Joint Anti-Corruption Task Team for evading more than R741,000 ($70,000) in taxes through his private security company. He took his partner, the son of a Xhosa king, with him.
Stifling uniformity: Kwaito star Mkhonzeni "Professor" Langa was arrested for impersonating a policeman and released with a warning and a R3,000 ($280) fine. He wore the uniform as a stunt while attending the Metro FM Music Awards in Durban. Police who watched the award ceremony on television spent the following day tracking Langa down to find out where he had got the uniform.
Luckily, the ten desperados featured are better at music than at crime, so in-between learning of their criminal pratfalls, this episode of Tune Me What is at least a very enjoyable hour of music!
Tune Me What? is a podcast and blog by Brett Lock and Leon Lazarus that highlights South African music and artists at home and around the world. For more information, visit tunemewhat.com or facebook.com/TuneMeWhat.