Battle for control of Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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The question is: Who should take over as leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo? Picture: Jabulani Langa
The question is: Who should take over as leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo? Picture: Jabulani Langa

At the heart of the conflict is a tug of war between the late icon’s sons over who should take over as the leader of the group

Barely a week after Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala’s burial, trouble has reared its ugly head in the camp.

According to City Press’ sister paper, Sunday Sun, at the heart of the conflict is the tug of war between the late icon’s sons over who should take over as the leader of the world-acclaimed group.

There is also the issue of the copyright of the group’s songs and ownership.

Joseph Shabalala led Mambazo for more than five decades until his retirement in 2014.

He died at the age of 78 on February 11 and was buried last Saturday.

The reality is Mambazo’s existence depends on Mitch Goldstein because he produces their songs, markets their work and controls every aspect of the group overseas
An insider

According to insiders, Joseph’s son, Sibongiseni Shabalala, and Mambazo’s Mzansi public relations manager, Xolani Majozi, have allegedly hijacked the group.

This was despite Thami Shabalala being nominated by his father to lead the group.

A source said: “Joseph Shabalala formally introduced him [Thami] to me as the future leader of Mambazo.

“I also remember that Thami briefly led the group, but that wasn’t for long as Sibongiseni took over.

“I’m also aware that almost all the Mambazo songs, especially the ones that put the group on the world map, are owned by Mitch Goldstein, Mambazo’s business manager.

“The reality is Mambazo’s existence depends on Mitch because he produces their songs, markets their work and controls every aspect of the group overseas,” the source said.

The source claimed Mambazo used to be managed by Romeo Qetsimani. “When their dad took ill, Sibongiseni and Xolani sidelined Romeo.”

Another source and a long-time friend said Joseph had told him that Thami would lead the group.

“He was my friend and used to discuss a lot of things with me. He once told me that when he retired, Thami would lead the group.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo wins a fourth Grammy Award.

“At that time Xolani, who’s now Mambazo’s manager, was not part of the picture. Xolani joined the group only later. As a result, he doesn’t know much about Mambazo.”

Joseph’s eldest son, Nkosinathi, confirmed Thami was nominated by his father to lead the group.

“As a result when he [ubaba] retired from music, the family expected Thami to take over, but that did not happen. Instead, the group was hijacked by some people. We were all confused when Sibongiseni took over as group leader because that wasn’t my dad’s instruction,” said Nkosinathi.

Thami confirmed that his father had announced that he would become leader of the group when he retired.

“I would like to confirm that my father made an announcement of who should be his successor in leading the group many years before he permanently retired as a leader of the group.

“It is public knowledge that he said I should take over after his retirement. In 2013 he officially retired from his duties as a leader,” said Thami.

He said his father also requested that four of his sons – all members of Mambazo – work together.

“We are currently working together in harmony towards taking this brand and my father’s work to greater heights with my three brothers who are Sibongiseni, Thulani and Msizi Shabalala.”

But Sibongiseni denied that Thami was nominated to lead the group.

“My dad left the group to all of us, as this is a family business. He never nominated anyone to lead the group. His instruction was that we should work together,” said Sibongiseni.

Majozi also denied the accusation.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

“I never hijacked the group. Joseph Shabalala introduced me to his four sons to work with them. I report to and consult all of them. I wouldn’t know who was officially nominated to lead the group.

“Sibongiseni might be seen as leading the group because of his business skills in the entertainment industry.”

Majozi said he managed the group without boundaries.

“The music copyright and everything pertaining to Joseph Shabalala’s work is under Gallo Records. He composed all his music and owned Mambazo.

“Just before he died he gave this ownership to his four sons,” Majozi said.

Goldstein said he’d been with the group for more than three decades.

“They allowed me to produce some of their CDs. We also collaborated on ideas. I manage Mambazo overseas. As far as copyright is concerned, Xolani is the best person to answer you.”

The group is no longer signed to Gallo. For many years they have been free to record and perform as they wish.
Rob Cowling from Gallo

Qetsimani confirmed that he used to manage the group. “When Joseph retired, I also took a step back. Unfortunately at this stage I’m not in a position to comment about anything regarding the group.”

Rob Cowling from Gallo said that the company had “an amazing relationship that goes back many years and over many albums, with mutually beneficial successes and awards with the Gallo family”.

“Ladysmith Black Mambazo are one of our long-standing recording artist relationships since we released their debut album with Gallo in 1973.

“We are in regular contact with the band through their manager and continue to get the music they released that Gallo shared with the world.”

But Cowling said the group was no longer under Gallo so they were not bound by any contract.

“The group is no longer signed to Gallo. For many years they have been free to record and perform as they wish. However, Gallo owns rights to certain historic recordings, images, videos and copyrights, but the group is not owned. They are independent, releasing material, touring, collaborating or granting rights to whomever they so wish,” said Cowling.


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