NEIGHBOURS watched in disbelief as mourners streamed in and out of award-winning kwaito star Mandoza’s home in Pimville, Soweto, yesterday.
Mandoza, whose real name was Mduduzi Edmund Tshabalala, died en route to hospital at about midday yesterday. Mandoza, who died on his wife Mpho’s birthday, was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to his brain.
Mandoza’s health challenges came into the spotlight last of last year in 2014 after he was rushed to hospital twice in the space of two months.
At the time Mandoza’s family reportedly attributed the musician’s health scares to a problem with his sinuses. In July 2014 the musician apparently underwent a sinus operation after collapsing at his home.
“We first found out that he had cancer in May last year but one after he went for a number of tests‚” Mpho told TMG Entertainment.
Mpho explained that they wanted to keep the news out of the public eye so that they could focus on him getting better.
“He suffered with his eyes for a few months and was in-and-out of hospital until doctors detected the cancer. They detected it early and he was able to go for treatment immediately‚” said Mpho.
The musician’s wife said that he has undergone several months of treatments and had been doing much better. Surprisingly, at one time doctors even declared him cancer-free.
As it got darker last night, some motorists drove past the house with their car sound systems on full blast, playing Mandoza’s hit song Nkalakatha.
President of the South African Music Council and kwaito group Trompies member Eugene Mthethwa was among mourners who visited the house. Mthethwa said his last memory of Mandoza, who had gone blind, was his performance at the Thank You SABC concert at Orlando Stadium last weekend.
“It’s a sad day in South Africa especially for us in the industry, in particular those who pioneered kwaito. He was looking forward to his treatment on Wednesday. I spoke to him on Thursday and he said he was going for his second treatment on Wednesday. We feel saddened.”
Mthethwa said he appreciated the fact that Mandoza had spent his last moments with them on stage.
“He was blind when he passed on. People thought he was weak, he was not weak. He had to be held as he was performing. His words were that ‘what I need the most is to be on stage and perform because that is what I do best. If I could be given the opportunity to do that I would be the happiest person’ and he did that. The concert was the last opportunity for him to do what he had requested to do.”
Mthethwa said his earliest memory of Mandoza was when he first performed with his group Chiskop in Pretoria.
“Mandoza was leading a song and he threw himself to the fans and they carried him across the stadium and brought him back. I said to myself confidence like that for a person who performed for the first time meant something. I did not know he was going to be a big solo artist. He is the only artist who brought black and white people together and to dance on the same dance floor.”
Paying tribute, Arthur Mafokate said: “Mandoza was rooted to his ghetto, heritage and background. He came from the ghetto and rose to be a star. He was humble and talented. He united the country in song and was proud to be a kwaito star. We will always remember the power of his song that united South Africans who are so polarised by race.”
Kwaito veteran Mdu Masilela said he was pained by the death. “My heart is sore. I’m so touched, I’m shaking.”
Stacey Gule, Mandoza’s publicist in the 1990s, said: “He was the same on and off stage. His work was a continuation of who he was … He was a pleasure to work with.”
Joyous Celebration founder Lindelani Mkhize said they were happy to see him doing what he loved most at the Thank You SABC concert.”
Mandoza’s first manager of 11 years, Vaughn Eaton, said: “He was very humble and feared God….He was a completely different person when you interacted with him away from the showbiz glamour.”
Kwaito star Mapaputsi said Mandoza had played a big role for the youth in Zola. “Mandoza was a person that grew from nothing to become someone that made his family and us proud of where we come from, eZola. We will forever thank God for introducing him to us.”