It is with a deep sense of shock and sadness that I heard the news of the passing of legendary actor, Roland Mqwebu, famous for playing the character of Mkhize in the popular sitcom, Emzini Wezinsizwa. This legend passed away in the morning of Friday, 28 August 2015, after a long illness.
Mqwebu was born on 16 January 1941, in Inanda near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Some of his earliest appearances on TV as an actor include his role in uDeliwe, a popular 1980s drama. He played the role of Ngomane, King Shaka’s friend, in the internationally acclaimed film Shaka, about the life of the legendary King of the Zulu people. He was also the Assistant Director of this epic production.
It is probably his role in Emzini Wezinsizwa that Mqwebu will be most remembered for. The film first graced our screens in 1994 and has remained a popular sitcom ever since. Emzini Wezinsizwa is as entertaining as much as it is educational. It is a portrayal of life in the hostels and shines the spotlight on the working class in our society. What is remarkable about this sitcom is that the inmates of Room 8 have diverse backgrounds and speak diverse languages and yet live together in harmony.
The film came out at an historic moment in South Africa. It did not only bring together households who sat in front of their TV screens, but it also bridged the gap between different ethnic groups in South Africa and the region. The lead characters include Magubane, Mofokeng, Tshawe, Chirwali and Mkhize, a role that Mqwebu played with laudable excellence.
Mqwebu portrayed the character of Mkhize in such a convincing manner that the lines between acting and his private life were blurred. His fans often found it difficult to distinguish between his professional life as an actor and his private life as a father and a business man. He popularised the Khabazela clan name, as he was fondly called both on screen and off the screen.
The passing of this legend happens a few days after we launched the Living Legends Legacy Programme, an initiative that seeks to celebrate and promote the legacy of arts legends that played an exceptional role in the development of the arts. Our objective is to harness the wisdom of legends like Mqwebu in order to inspire and guide younger artists in their burgeoning careers in the arts, culture and heritage sector. Mqwebu was one of the legends that we had earmarked as both the drivers as well as the beneficiaries of the programme.
Mqwebu was a versatile artist who did not only contribute to the arts through his acting and directing role in film, but also as a musician. He collaborated with Phuzekhemisi in the production of the song, Ekhaya Ngonyawo. We are proud that many young people drank from his fountain of knowledge as one of his passions was motivational speaking. His light will continue to shine through generations as one of the torchbearers in the arts fraternity.
The famous Room 8 in Emzini Wezinsizwa will never be the same without him. We convey our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all his fans from the different corners of South Africa and the world. Akuhlanga lungehli!
For further information call Spokesperson for the Minister of Arts & Culture, Ms Lisa Combrinck 0828214886.