Tributes for Emzini Wezinsizwa creator Pixley Shabangu pour in: “What a loss to South African comedy”

The cast of Emzini Wezinsizwa with Pixley Shabangu.
The cast of Emzini Wezinsizwa with Pixley Shabangu.
Emzini Wezinsizwa Facebook

It was one of the most popular comedy shows in the country. Families would often sit down for supper while watching these men struggle through everyday life in the hostels.

Now the man behind the much-loved Emzini Wezinsizwa, Pixley Shabangu, has died.

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He died at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital after battling diabetes, his family confirmed. Muvhango producer Duma Ndlovu shared the news on Facebook of Pixley’s passing while paying tribute to him.

“Mr. Pixley Shabangu, who created the hit comedy series for SABC -1 Emzini Wezinsizwa passed on over the weekend after a long illness. The news of his passing was confirmed by his son, Nkululeko Shabantu who said that his father succumbed to diabetes. Mr. Shabangu, who died at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, was 69 years old, he was born July 09, 1951. Emzini Wezinsizwa was launched by SABC -1 in 1996 and featured a hilarious motley crew of actors who made a name for themselves as residents of a fictitious hostel where they brought their shared experiences keeping the whole country in stitches with their tribal humour.

“As much as the show was based on stereotype, the humour reminded South Africans of a slice of life that they were all too familiar with and gave the country an opportunity to laugh at themselves. Shabangu hired a variety of writers over the ten seasons that the show ran on SABC to try and create a crossover appeal, but unfortunately, it's shelf life was overtaken by much younger and hipper shows. SABC continued to flight repeats of these shows though. Shabangu is survived by two daughters and two sons [sic].”

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Emzini Wezinsizwa cast member and veteran actor Vusi Thanda is deeply saddened by Pixley’s passing.“What a loss to South African comedy,” he tells DRUM.

“Pixley was a comedic genius. He wrote scripts in isiZulu and would make a direct translation into English and that brought so much comedic relief with his scripts,” he says.

“What saddens me more is he didn’t get the recognition he deserved. He did not get the appreciation he deserved and the reward for his hard work,” he adds. “The show made a lot of money, but he did not get to enjoy any of it. He was looked down on and lived like an ordinary man, instead of a comedic genius.”

Vusi met Pixley in 1983 through Pixley’s brother, Sydney Shabangu, who wrote famous dramas Ifa Lakwa Mthethwa and Inkinsela yase Mgungundlovu to name a few.“Sydney and his brother Pixley worked together and in 1993 they called me to audition for the role of Tshawe,” he says.

“Pixley was very helpful, hardworking and humorous. He believed in writing about what he understood.”Vusi worked with Pixley from 1993 until 2005 but they kept in contact.“He came into the homes of South Africans and made them laugh. People thought the actors were the stars, but he was the real star, we complimented his work with gestures and acting, but the script and humour were all him and he will forever be in the history books of South African television,” Vusi says.

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