Bra Zakes reached the top

A GIANT of the entertainment industry and a courageous man were some of the qualities attributed by colleagues, fans and friends to acclaimed actor Zakes Mokae, who died in Las Vegas this week.

He was 75.

It is reported that Mokae may have died of complications caused by a stroke he suffered in May.

He had previously been diagnosed with Alzheimers and Parkinson's disease.

Mokae had retired to South Africa - the country of his birth - but had recently returned to the US to undergo treatment.

Whatever adjectives are used to describe this icon of South African theatre and son of the soil, Mokae has certainly left his footprints for generations of aspiring artists.

The Tony Award-winner has starred in movies with Hollywood A-listers such as Denzel Washington and James Earl Jones.

Some of the hit movies in 'Bra Zakes' illustrious career include The Comedians, Cry Freedom and A Dry White Season.

Mokae was nominated for a Tony for his supporting role in The Song of Jacob Zulu, a play about the South African trial of a black political activist.

His television work includes top-drawer shows such as The X-Files and Oz.

Born in Soweto on August 5 1934, Mokae left South Africa in 1962 for England, where he studied drama. He went to the US where he worked on Broadway as well as in movies and television.

In 1970 he starred off-Broadway with Ruby Dee and Earl Jones in the American premiere of Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena. In 1985 he starred with Fugard in The Blood Knot.

Mokae is survived by his wife Madelyn, daughter Santino Smith, grandchildren Corey Victor, Chontavious Glover, sisters Obeta Mokae, Elizabeth Mokae Thamae and brothers Thabo and Tasse.

Mokae will be cremated in Las Vegas today and his ashes brought back home on a date yet to be established.

A memorial service in his honour is also planned soon, say friends and family.