Generous, bubbly, cool, young-at-heart, professional, prepared, humorous, spiritual are just some of the words speakers used to describe the late actor Menzi Ngubane at his memorial service on Thursday.
Celebrities, dignitaries and fans alike gathered at the Assemblies of God church in Sandton to remember the colourful life of the iconic actor who passed away last Saturday.
He passed away at home after battling a stroke and is set to be laid to rest this weekend in his hometown of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. The packed memorial service was an emotional affair that took everyone down memory lane and showed the role Menzi played in shaping the arts in this country.
Holding the programme together were clearly emotional actors Thapelo Mokoena and her castmate on Isibaya Ayanda Borotho.
“Last year there was pandemonium onset following rumours that Menzi had passed on. I called his wife and she didn’t answer. But eventually, I got a call from the wife who assured us that Menzi was fine but in hospital,” said a fearful Ayanda.
“I was relieved but when I later saw him and I told him what had happened, he was angry that lies were being spread about him. He assured me he was going nowhere and I believed him…let us allow him to go and rest peacefully.”
Speakers included Sonia Mbele, who played alongside Menzi as his wife on Generations, actor and entrepreneur Thato Molamu, influential couple Connie and Shona Ferguson, actress Lerato Mvelase, renowned actor Patrick Shai and former head of make-up at Generations and Enhle Mbali’s mom Bongi Mlotshwa. They all spoke fondly of the time they shared him. Sonia delivered a moving tribute and said she spoke into the universe that she would one day work with Menzi.
“I remember watching him on TV and saying I would be damned if I don’t work with that man…Then one day producers called me into a room and told me they are bringing a character and he will turn Ntombi’s life around. I almost fainted when I discovered it was Menzi,” she said, adding that of the eight years she worked with Menzi she learned so much including professionalism, generosity and spiritually. “No one knew the Bible like him. He would preach to us. I have learned so much from him.”
To soothe the heart of mourners, there were musical renditions from well-known jazz music maestro Judith Sephuma, Abathandwa – a group discovered by Real Housewives of Durban’s Ayanda Ncwane – gospel singer Deborah Fraser and Praise and Worship, to name but a few.
The memorial service showed what an illustrious career Menzi had and he was still set on making a mark. At the time of his passing, he was working with international stars Simon Kook and Peter Pham from Vietnam on a movie called Red Cargo and had started a mentorship programme, Boy Mentorship with Menzi, aimed at mentoring boys into becoming respectable members of society.