Friends and colleagues honour Deborah Fraser – 'She was bubbly, fearless, and spoke her mind'

Friends say the talented gospel singer Deborah Fraser was a straight talker but also cared for orphans.
Friends say the talented gospel singer Deborah Fraser was a straight talker but also cared for orphans.
Frennie Shivambu/Galloimages

South Africans have been reeling since the death of yet another celebrity. 

This after gospel singer Deborah Fraser died after a short illness. In a statement, her family revealed that the Ngonile singer passed on Sunday 15 May 2022. 

“It is with deep sadness to inform you of the passing of our beloved mother, sister, aunt and friend, and Gospel musician, Deborah Fraser following a short illness. She passed on today (Sunday) after midday, in the presence of her family and friends.”

The family requested privacy as they process the news. 

"As Deborah Fraser’s family we would like to be given space to process and deal with this very tragic situation. The public will be further informed of any developments.”

Deborah was hospitalised from February until March in 2021 and was recently wheelchair bound after some health complications. She asked for prayers after falling ill on her way to a gig at Klerksdorp in the North West.

She has been living with diabetes for many years and had it under control.

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Artist manager and Charlie Communications founder Ngcebo Mdima, who worked closely with Deborah Fraser from 2014 until 2018, last spoke to her two weeks ago and she was hopeful about her health.

“Mam’ Deborah believed she could overcome anything,” Ngcebo says.

“I started working with her ever since she joined Universal Music. My responsibilities included making sure that her songs were being played on radio and TV. I was in charge of KZN, Mpumalanga, and other parts. I drove her around, we traveled together to radio stations and television shows and we made it happen and revived her career,” Ngcebo says.

“We built a trust and she felt comfortable inviting me to her home. She was not open to just having anyone n her space and that was an honour for me. When we went to KZN, she took me to her family in KwaMashu and treated me like her son,” he adds.

He became part of her family.

“We built a very strong bond. Even when she was ill, she would call, and we would pray together. We were very close, almost mother and son. I called her mom. We would even go to her daughter’s school for pickups, and I was part of the family.”

Devastated by her passing, Ngcebo says he will miss her straight talk and prayer sessions.

“I was planning to see visit her, but fate had other plans. There was never a dull moment with Mam’ Deborah. She was bubbly, fearless, and spoke her mind. She would not gossip about you but If she didn’t like something, she would tell it to your face in a polite manner and give you reasons. She stood for what she believed including her rights and her money when it came to the music,” he says.

“She was umama oqotho and a praying woman. She wouldn’t mind giving out her numbers to people and when they call, she would pick up and stop the car on the side of the road and pray for people. She believed she was sent to pray for people and give them hope.” 

Ngcebo says before she passed, she had asked for Gospel artist relief funds.

“She had been fighting since Covid-19 started and it’s a pity she died before her wishes came to light,” he says. 

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Deborah’s friend of over 40 years, Lungile Cele says she will remember her as a kind, caring, and very giving, especially to those less fortunate.

“I will miss the sisterhood, her straight talk. She did not mince her words. She was kind and took care of people. The Deborah Fraser Foundation took care of orphans and child-headed homes and she was very hands-on. We will continue to support her children in building her legacy.”

Lungile says she already misses the laughs and happy times.

“My friend was very stylish. I will miss her laughs and the glamorous looks and most importantly her love for family and her love for others. It is still early days, and the news has not sunk in, but we are here to support her children.”

Veteran gospel artist Dr. Rebecca Malope says the country has lost a legend.

“Her music was soothing and comforting. The industry has lost an icon and one of the greatest talents we have produced.”

Rebecca was at home when she heard the devastating news about Deborah’s passing and she knew that Deborah had diabetes.

“I could not believe it, such a young and gifted woman of God. I knew she had had sugar diabetes. My mother also suffered from the illness, and I know it is a difficult illness to live with,” she says.

Rebecca and Deborah have not seen each other in over two years.

“The last time they spoke was before lockdown. I knew she was not well and I and other gospel artists were planning to pay her a visit, it’s unfortunate she passed before we could show her our support,” Rebecca says.

The two gospel singers met many moons ago and music brought them together.

“I met Deborah when she was one of the session musicians who I worked with from my very first albums,” she says.

“We had good times and she had a beautiful alto voice. We then spent years working on different albums. She was a backing vocalist and session artist for many people.”

Rebecca urges people to continue to support her music. 

“Her children need to continue to live off the legacy that their mother left for them. She was loved and healed many souls with her beautiful voice, which her children will be living off because her legacy will still be alive and will continue to fund their lives.”

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Singer Winnie Khumalo shared a stage with Deborah in 2009 and they campaigned together for ANC during the promotion of the Ngiyohlala Nginje album. 

“We were both campaigning for Jacob Zuma to be president at the time and we were part of Chicco Twala’s team,” Winnie says.

Winnie Khumalo and Deborah Fraser shared a stage in 2009 while working on a campaign for the ANC.

“We travelled across the country and performed everywhere together. I had known of Deborah Fraser as a backing vocalist, and I heard she was part of the group Hot Soul Singers. I used to listen to them when I just joined the industry at 15 years old.”

Winne being a private person, who enjoys time at home, she only interacted with Deborah through work.

“I am a very private person, and I don’t usually associate with artists unless it's work. We were always linked by work because we worked with the same people. She was strict, very straightforward, very private, and distanced herself from drama. But I also didn’t analyze her too much because I was always minding my own business but we worked well, we were forever happy,” Winnie says.

“The industry has truly lost a gem and we hope her family finds comfort in knowing she played her role in their lives and in healing the nation through her music.”

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