SA's Got Talent winner James Bhemgee's family found out about his death on social media

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James Bhemgee.
James Bhemgee.
Photo: Brendon Bishop/Gallo Images
  • South Africa's Got Talent season 2 winner James Bhemgee died on Wednesday. He was 57.
  • His brother Pastor Alfonso Schilder told Channel24 that Bhemgee suffered from chronic illnesses and died of a heart attack.
  • Bhemgee, a former street sweeper, won the reality competition in 2010.

Nerine Prosperum Schilder the sister of South Africa's Got Talent season 2 winner James Bhemgee wrote on Facebook that the news of her brother's death was released on social media first. 

Bhemgee, who won the competition in 2010, died on Wednesday in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. He was 57.

"To all my friends, family and FB buddies, I confirm that my brother James Bhemgee has passed away this morning. This was absolutely shocking to his children and the family as the news was released on social media first." She added, "Rest in peace, my brother James Bhemgee. I'm sure you and Jonathan(Junaid) are having great heavenly conversations with Dad."

"We are very saddened by his passing, but we are also at peace that he is out of the suffering that he endured during that time," his brother Pastor Alfonso Schilder told Channel24 in an interview.

According to Schilder, his brother, who suffered from chronic illnesses, died from a heart attack. "My brother had a chronic illness. He was suffering from hypertension, and his kidney also failed. That put some strain on the heart, and the heart collapsed [and] he had a heart attack."

Despite battling with his health, Bhemgee reportedly did not share his suffering with anyone.

"He was suffering, but he never told or complained about it to anyone. James wasn't somebody who spoke about his feelings, and he was always optimistic, so he would never make people feel sorry for him because he was always upbeat and positive."

Schilder admitted that while there were plenty of things he could say to and ask his brother, he would particularly want to know if he was at peace in his current state. "Peace is a state of being; sometimes people don't have that when they suffer, but I've also seen people being at peace when they suffer."

Schilder also said they were "in the process of working with what we have to see how we can give my brother a dignified funeral."

He shared that the singer had gone through a difficult period with the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that they only had one burial insurance policy taken out by one of his children.

No formal arrangements have been made, but Schilder said: "God willing", they intended to have a memorial for Bhemgee next Tuesday and his funeral a few days later, on Saturday.

In an interview with Channel24 in 2010, the former street sweeper recalled how one lucky day, while singing Gé Korsten's Sonder Jou in the streets of Mowbray, a woman named Angelique Fuhr approached him. Convinced of his singing talent, she paid for his first singing lessons.

Bhemgee then went on to do a performance diploma at the University of Cape Town but left the country before finishing his university diploma.

In 1994 he appeared on Breakfast News (now BBC Breakfast) in the United Kingdom. He went on to study in Germany, where he spent four years and went on to learn music theory in the US.

Bhemgee is survived by his brother, sister and six children.

Tributes from industry friends and fans are pouring in on social media.

Singer Alistair Izobell wrote on Facebook: "Rest sweetly brother.... your voice will forever ring in my heart. Your race is done. You made many hearts smile with your talent and charm."

Idols SA winner Sasha-Lee Davids also paid tribute. She wrote: "Heartbroken. My Duet Partner. Rest Peacefully, dear friend."

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