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In Memoriam | Celebs we lost in 2020

In 2020, we lost some of Mzansi's greatest legends.
In 2020, we lost some of Mzansi's greatest legends.
Image: Katherine Muick-Mere

This year was truly a year of loss, whether it was our loved ones or the rich and famous, as a human race grief was the overall theme of 2020.

Reflecting on deaths that happened this year, we are here to remember and commemorate the lives of iconic SA celebs we lost this year. Here are some of our legends who are gone but not forgotten.

Mary Twala

Veteran actress Mary Twala.
Veteran actress Mary Twala.
Image: Vathiswa Ruselo

Veteran actress Mary Twala died earlier this year and left a hole in SA hearts everywhere.

The Sarafina star was known for her many roles over the decades in productions such as Mampantsula, Generations and Vaya.

Mary was nominated for the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. posthumously, and was awarded the Best Actress award at the 44th annual Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The last appearance the star made was on Beyoncé's Black is King.  

Bob Mabena

Bob Mabena
Bob Mabena

Radio host and journalist Bob Mabena died from a heart attack in August.

At the time of the star's death, he hosted the Breakfast show on Power 98.7. The star is known for his years as a legendary DJ, becoming a household name.

Former colleague and friend Redi Thlabi opened up about her fond memories of him on Twitter,  saying that Bob and his impact on the journalism industry will be remembered.

“The shock of his sudden death has worn off. I actually prefer the shock because the deep sadness is harder to bear. What a man! He also called me by my full name, Redihentse. He was simply lovely, contemplative and deeply spiritual. We will miss him”

Thandeka Mdeliswa

Actress Thandeka Mdeliswa
Actress Thandeka Mdeliswa
Image: Supplied/ Thandeka Mdeliswa's Facebook

In a sudden and shocking death that rocked 2020, actress Thandeka Mdeliswa died after being shot in her family home in Evander, Mpumalanga.

Three men, including the alleged shooter, have appeared in court in connection with the murder.

According to police, Thandeka was shot after she went to investigate a squabble between her brother and two men. When she approached the scene, one of the men allegedly snatched a firearm from his friend and shot her.

Her death caused outrage across the country, with many celebs including Cassper Nyovest speaking out on the matter, calling for people to fight against the scourge of femicide in SA.

“Every day I log into this app there's a woman or child raped, missing or dead. The men who are supposed to be the leaders are too quiet and too comfortable! There's only so much one can do as a citizen, nje. The president needs to act! He needs to show up! Men need to act now!” Cassper tweeted.

Moonyeenn Lee

Moonyeenn Lee
Moonyeenn Lee
Image: Facebook/Moonyeenn Lee

Casting director Moonyeenn Lee was remembered by the entertainment industry after she died from Covid-19 complications at the age of 76.

The star spent 47 years in the industry. Moonyeenn was involved in the casting for the Oscar-award winning film Tsotsi and others such as The Bang Bang Club, Disgrace, Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, the Oscar-nominated Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Hotel Rwanda and Blood Diamond.

With an outpouring of love and condolences from the entertainment industry, her impact was truly captivated in the response. Director and producer Anand Singh remembers fondly working with Moonyeenn and her keen eye for talent.

“Moonyeenn was, without doubt, a doyen of the industry who was responsible for making stars of many talented SA actors. Her passing is a huge loss to the industry. There will never be anyone like her. My sincere condolences go to her family and friends.” said Singh.

Joseph Shabalala 

Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala
Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder Joseph Shabalala
Image: Photo by Andrew Lepley/Redferns

Founder of Grammy-award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo and veteran singer Joseph Shabalala died this year at Life Eugene Marais hospital in Pretoria, leaving a huge mark on the music industry.

Though the cause of death hasn't been confirmed, the star's health had started to deteriorate after he had back surgery in 2013.

At a memorial service with friends and family, grandson Gagamela Shabalala harked back to the times when he was alive and said his inspiration lives on.

“He meant a lot to us and he was more than a father. It’s just so surreal that he’s gone and I’m sad, but I’m really happy for all the support and everybody that is here today,” he said.

Vinolia “V-Mash” Mashego

Vinolia Mashego, aka V-Mash.
Vinolia Mashego, aka V-Mash.
Image: Instagram/Vinolia Mashego

TV personality  Vinolia 'V-Mash' Mashego died peacefully in her home in Mamedlodi, Pretoria from natural causes. She was declared dead three days after her death when her body was found by paramedics.

The star was known for her strong stage presence and personality and most famously for her role as Hilda Letlalo on the hit soapie Generations.

Speaking to TshisaLIVE, nephew Karabo Seale says he will always remember his aunt for her larger than life personality.

“The Vinolia you saw on TV is the same person she was with us. She was always joking. She had a lot of energy and was always having fun. I will never forget how she used to bring us things from Jam Alley.” 

Allen Booi

Actor Allen Booi
Actor Allen Booi
Image: Trinity Management Agency

Veteran actor Allen Booi died earlier this year, leaving an impact on the SA soapie world.

The star, who was perhaps best known for his roles as Mike in the SABC1 series Tsha Tsha and as Godfrey Xaba After Nine.

Industry giants reflected on the meaningful impact Allen's death has made on the industry.

Actor John Kani said that Allen was “a gentle man”, while actress Ayanda Thabethe said his death was a great loss to the entertainment industry.

Sipho Ngema

Popular actor Sipho Ngema
Popular actor Sipho Ngema
Image: Twitter/ The Chat Room

Actor Sipho Ngema died from heart failure caused by pulmonary hypertension at the age of 57.

The star was best know for his starring roles in Uzalo and Rhythm City.

Hours before the star was laid to rest, daughter Mbali had to clear the air on the family looking for donations for the funeral costs. She said that though an initiative by her father's colleagues was appreciated, the call for help wasn't from the family themselves.

“Today my dad is being buried and everything has come together, I am entirely grateful to everyone that extended their hand, everyone that visited my family home, and everyone that assisted in whichever way they could so that this day could be possible. I'm grateful,” wrote Mbali.

Karabo 'Jazzy T' Makhubela

Karabo Mokhubela played the role of Jazzy T on 'Skeem Saam'.
Karabo Mokhubela played the role of Jazzy T on 'Skeem Saam'.
Image: Skeem Saam/ SABC1

Soapie star Karabo Makhubela died in July, leaving Skeem Saam fans heartbroken.

Fans and friends alike took to the internet to share their heartfelt condolences and memories they have of the star becoming a household name with his iconic character Jazzy T. 

Xola Nozewu spoke to TshisaLIVE about his best friend, describing him as a selfless and caring member of his community.

“It is a huge loss. He was so passionate about everything he did, especially growing community radio. He was such a kind soul. He would fight any battle for those he loved and was so selfless.” 

Charles 'Big Boy' Maja

Actor Charles 'Big Boy Mabitsela' Maja
Actor Charles 'Big Boy Mabitsela' Maja
Image: Twitter/Skeem Saam

Another loss on the set of Skeem Saam was actor Charles Maja, who died from a stroke.

He truly stole the hearts of Mzansi in the SABC1 drama as the over-protective father Big Boy Mabistela.

The cast and crew of the show took to the Skeem Saam Twitter account in memory of the legendary actor.

“You may be gone for now but you live forever in our memories and in our hearts. Thank you so much for who you were, we love you and we wish you a peaceful sleep. RIP Charles BIG BOY Maja. Our family will never be the same again!” the soapie tweeted.


Kwaito star Mshoza
Kwaito star Mshoza
Image: Mshoza The GodMother/ Instagram

Kwaito icon Mshoza died from complications due to diabetes at the age of 37.

The young star was remembered by her contemporaries for her impact on Kwaito music and the entertainment industry as a whole. Mzansi mourned the loss of the singer, with an outpouring of love and grief from fans and fellow artists alike.

Gqom queen Babes Wodumo took to Instagram in an emotional post about getting to work with her before the world lost a star. In a video of the pair performing together, Babes reminded the world that Mshoza's legacy will live on.

UNkulu Nkulu usiphile wena waphinde wasithathela singalindele. (God gave you to us and then took you back when we least expected it) I feel very honoured  I had a chance to work with you even though I planned to release our song on my next album alongside other great female artists. You've been a great inspiration to us sisakhula as we came after you to the scene. Ulale ngok'thula Dade Wethu, Ulale ngok'phumula Mbhokodo.” wrote babes.

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