Mbongeni Ngema

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Mbongeni Ngema
Born Mbongeni Ngema
(1955-06-01) June 1, 1955 (age 64)
Verulam, Durban
KwaZulu-Natal, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Playwright
  • Screenwriter
  • Librettist
  • Actor
  • Writer
  • Lyricist
  • Composer
  • Director
  • Musician
  • Theatre Producer
Years active 1975 - to date
Notable work Sarafina!
Woza Albert!
Spouse(s) Leleti Khumalo (m. 1992– d.2005)

Mbongeni Ngema (born 01 June 1955) is a South African playwright, actor, writer, lyricist, composer, screenwriter, musician, librettist, director and theatre producer. He is best known as the Writer of the internationally acclaimed and award-winning musical Sarafina!which was later turned into a film of the same name in 1992 starring Leleti Khumalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Miriam Makeba, John Kani and Tertius Meintjies and directed by Darrell Roodt.

In 2015, Mbongeni Ngema graced the South African television screens in a rare move when he starred in the e.tv telenovela, Gold Diggers, playing the role of Patrick Gumede the head of the Gumede family of career gold miners. However, rumours began to surface that he had resigned from the show citing scheduling issues, and it wasn't long before his character was killed off halfway though the first season. In 2017 he wrote, directed and starred in the adaptation for the screen of his 1996 play Asinamali with Darrell Roodt serving as a producer.

Early Life

Mbongeni Ngema was born 01 June 1955 in Verulam, a town located 27km north of the city of Durban in the province KwaZulu-Natal of South Africa. He is Zulu.

Early Career

Mbongeni Ngema began his career is a manual labourer and playing a guitar. He acted in local theatre groups for the better part of the 1970s. Mbongeni Ngema would find his success as a writer and playwright.

Early Success: Woza Albert! and Asinamali!, 1981 - 1983

Mbongeni Ngema co-wrote the critically acclaimed play, Woza Albert!, with Percy Mtwa and Barney Simon and the play premiered in 1981 at the Market Theater in Johannesburg and toured in Europe and America as the most successful play to come out of South Africa at the time and went on to win over 20 prestigious awards.

Prominence: Sarafina and Other Work, 1987 - 2006

Mbongeni Ngema penned his magnum opus, Sarafina!, which premiered at the Johannesburg's Market Theatrein June 1987. On n 28 January 1988, Sarafina! premiered on Broadway at the Cort Theatre, and closed on 2 July 1989, after 597 performances and 11 previews. Mbongeni Ngema conceived the idea of Sarafina! drawing inspiration directly from the 1976 uprising; he wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the play.

Sarafina! launched the careers of many important artist who would go on to have enduring careers in the entertainment industry; chief among which, Leleti Khumalo, who portrayed the title character. Leleti Khumalo would later appear in films such as Hotel Rwanda alongside Don Cheadle and Invictus alongside Morgan Freeman as well as star in the Academy Award nominated Yesterday as a title character. Sarafina! also launched the careers of Sindi Dlathu and Baby Cele who later gushed about Mbongeni Ngema's significance in her career.

In 1992 Mbongeni Ngema's Sarafina! was adapted for the screen with Leleti Khumalo reprising her role as the title character and was joined by Miriam Makeba, John Kani and Tertius Meintjies as well as American actress Whoopi Goldberg.


  1. Britannica, Mbongeni Ngema, 16 January 2019
  2. Times LIVE, 'My work will outlive me,' says Mbongeni Ngema on longevity, 16 January 2019
  3. IMDb, Mbongeni Ngema, 16 January 2019
  4. TVSA, Mbongeni Ngema, 16 January 2019
  5. Channel24, Mbongeni Ngema rumoured to star in Gold Diggers, 17 January 2019
  6. Channel24, Reports: Mbongeni Ngema allegedly dumped Gold , 17 January 2019