The celebrities we lost in 2017

Joe Mafela. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo
Joe Mafela. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo

The South African entertainment scene lost some heavyweights this year with the deaths of Joe Mafela and Jabu Kubheka, while internationally greats like Della Reese and Sam Shepard bowed out.

Here are just some of the entertainers and celebs we lost this year.

Joe Mafela began acting at the age of 22, and had hits with movies and soapies like Real News, comedy series ’Sgudi ’Snaysi and South Africa’s biggest TV series Generations: The Legacy in which he played the role of uncle Tebogo Moroka.

The actor also had other skills in his arsenal. He was a screen writer and his film credits include Zulu, Tokoloshe, Shout at the Devil, Game for Vultures, Escape from Angola, Freedom Fighters, Red Scorpion and Tigers Don’t Cry. In addition movie writing, Joe produced musicals such as Mzunba, Sangoma, Syagida and the Gold Reef City Dancers. Joe died in a car accident on Saturday, March 18.

Gospel musician Lundi Tyamara began his career as a backup vocalist for Rebecca Malope until he caught the eye of Tshepo Nzimande who offered him his first record deal. In 1998 he started his solo career and released his first album Mphefumulo Wami. The famous gospel star died at the age of 38 after a battle with TB.

Jabu Kubheka was best known for his role as Bazooka Khumba in the SABC1 drama series Zone 14.

He was previously known for his role as Gunman in the iconic, hard-hitting SABC1 drama series Yizo Yizo.

In 2014 he had a starring role as Skhumba, Thomas’ old friend and a township hustler. Other television series he acted in included dramas Jacob’s Cross and A Place Called Home; the soapies Zabalaza, Gold Diggers and Generations; and the comedies Abo Mzala, Ses’Top La and Thandeka’s Diary. He died in June.

Mandla Hlatshwayo is an actor best known for his role as Siphiwe Phosa on the SABC1 series Generations, a role he played for seven years. His break into television came in 1996 when he starred in SABC1’s Soul City 2. Mandla was well known on the club scene as DJ Mandla, and released his first album in 2006 called Jozi Nights Volume 1. He took on the role of Dr Victor Ngubane on the soapie Backstage. Mandla was shot dead on Sunday May 14, during a robbery at a pub in Pimville, Soweto. He was 40 years old.

Joost van der Westhuizen

This South African rugby player made 89 appearances for the Springboks scoring 38 tries. He played scrum-half and participated in three Rugby World Cups, most notably in the 1995 tournament which was won by South Africa. He captained the national side on 10 occasions and was part of the team that won South Africa’s first Tri-Nations title in 1998. Locally he played for the Blue Bulls from 1993 to 2003, with whom he won two domestic Currie Cup trophies in 1998 and 2002. From 1996 until his retirement in 2003 played Super 12 rugby for the Bulls. In 2011, it was announced that Van der Westhuizen had motor neurone disease and he eventually became confined to a wheelchair and experienced speech problems. He died at his home in Johannesburg surrounded by his family on February 6, at the age of 45.

Della Reese was an American jazz and gospel singer, actress, and ordained minister whose career spanned seven decades. That career includes acting in the television religious supernatural drama Touched by an Angel (1994–2003), in which Reese played the leading role of Tess. As a singer she scored a hit with her 1959 single “Don’t You Know?” She acted in blockbuster films from 1975 onwards, including Harlem Nights (1989). Della Reese died on November 19 at her Los Angeles, California, home at the age of 86. No cause was given, although she had suffered from Type 2-diabetes.

Hugh Hefner was a writer and illustrator who created the men’s adult entertainment magazine Playboy, which played a role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hefner built his controversial yet groundbreaking magazine into an international enterprise. Not only that, but he took his entertainment magazine into a series on E-channel called Girls of the Playboy Mansion where he would show the life he has with his business and his three girlfriends. Hefner died on September 2 at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, California. The 91-year-old peacefully passed away from natural causes.

Robert Hardy was best known for his role in the Harry Potter series as Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. He died at age 91 on August 3.

Sam Shepard was an American playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director whose body of work spanned half a century. He died on July 27 at the age of 73 after a long battle with ALS. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his stage play Buried Child. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 historical drama The Right Stuff.

June Foray was an American voice actress who was best known as the voice of such animated characters as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Lucifer from Disney’s Cinderella, Cindy Lou Who, Jokey Smurf, Granny from the Warner Bros cartoons directed by Friz Freleng, Grammi Gummi from Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears series, and Magica De Spell. She died on July 26, aged 99.

Chester Bennington was an American singer, songwriter, and actor. He was best known as the lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park, and also served as the front man for Dead by Sunrise and Stone Temple Pilots. The Linkin Park lead vocalist was found dead on July 20. He was 41 years old. He was best known for the band’s hits Numb, In the End and Crawling.

Nelsan Ellis was an American film and television actor and playwright. He played Lafayette Reynolds in the HBO series True Blood and Bobby Byrd in the 2014 James Brown biopic Get on Up. He died at the age of 39 in July after suffering complications from heart failure.

Prodigy was an American rapper, actor and author who was one half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep with Havoc. He died on June 20 at age 42. Prodigy was hospitalised in Las Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anaemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth.

Cuba Gooding Sr was an American singer and actor. He was the most successful lead singer of the soul group The Main Ingredient, replacing former lead singer Donald McPherson who died unexpectedly of leukaemia in 1971. The singer was found dead in his car on April 20 after a reported overdose. He was 72.

Charlie Murphy was an American actor, comedian and writer. Murphy was best known as a writer and cast member of the Comedy Central sketch-comedy series Chappelle’s Show. He was the older brother of comedian Eddie Murphy. The comedian, who was 57 years old, died at a NYC hospital on April 12 after a battle with leukemia.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Latest issue
Latest issue
All the news from City Press in PDF form.
Read now
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
The justice system is overwhelmed
20% - 1 votes
It's a joke
20% - 1 votes
Corruption is destroying SA
60% - 3 votes