Kaunda Selisho

By Kaunda Selisho


In memorium: A look back at the famous faces we lost in 2021

From Shona Ferguson to Killer Kau and King Zwelithini, 'The Citizen' takes a look back to some of the famous faces that passed on in 2021.

Much like 2020, 2021 was a year marked by loss – of friends, family and famous faces alike.

This is due, in major part, to Covid-19 but also to tragedies like car accidents and old age in some cases.

This sad reality was reflected in Google’s “Year in Search” data for 2021.

Earlier this week, Google revealed the results of its 2021 Year in Search, showing how people search to find answers to their biggest questions.

“Google’s 2021 Year in Search compiles the moments, people, topics, events, and places that captured the world’s attention this year,” said the company in a statement.

Although the year in search focuses on a range of topics, today, we take a look at the deaths of famous people that were top of mind for South Africans.

Desmond Tutu

Rest now dear Tata' Mamkhize and more celebs pay tribute to Archbishop Tutu
Late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Picture: Twitter

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his profound sadness at the passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu on Sunday morning 26 December.

Archbishop Tutu, the last surviving South African laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, passed away in Cape Town at the age of 90.

In a statement on Sunday morning Ramaphosa shared his heartfelt condolences to Mam Leah Tutu, the Tutu family, the board and staff of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Elders and Nobel Laureate Group, and the friends, comrades and associates nationally and globally of the iconic spiritual leader, anti-apartheid activist and global human rights campaigner.

His funeral will take place at the St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Saturday, 1 January 2022. St George’s, also known as the ‘People’s Cathedral’, played a vital role in the resistance against apartheid.

Shona Ferguson

Shona Ferguson’s funeral taking place today and details of a memorial service will be communicated at a later stage | Picture: Instagram

Perhaps the most shocking death of a famous person happened earlier this year when the death of Shona Ferguson was confirmed just days after news that he had been taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) after a Covid-19 diagnosis.

Killer Kau

Killer Kau
Late musician Killer Kau. Picture: Instagram

Another death that trended and saddened many South Africans was that of entertainer Killer Kau (Sakhile Hlatshwayo), who died in a car accident along with other young entertainers Mpura (Mongezi Thomas Stuurman), The Voice (Khanya Radebe), Thando Tot (Thando Sibisi) and TD (Thando Khunjwa).


Rapper DMX
The 2021 BET Awards will honour rapper DMX with a special tribute. Picture: Instagram

Respected US rapper DMX also died this year, after he suffered a heart attack and was subject to a death hoax prior to his actual passing.

AFP reports that the artist born Earl Simmons died after nearly a week on life support following a heart attack.

Following his passing, he was honoured in a series of documentaries by music platforms such as BET, who honoured him with tribute performances during award shows.

Jackson Mthembu

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu at a press briefing, where he urged all South Africans to unite behind the Springboks for the Rugby World Cup final against England on 31 October 2019. Picture: GCIS

The late minister is another one of the many lives lost to Covid-19 this year and his passing rocked the entire South African political community.

Colleagues and opposition leaders alike had nothing but kind words to say about who Mthembu was as a person and a politician in the days following his death.

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Menzi Ngubane

Actor Menzi Ngubane
The late actor Menzi Ngubane. Picture: Twitter

Due to his ill health, former Generations and Isibaya star Menzi Ngubane is a famous person who has been the subject of many death hoaxes, which regularly went viral on social media.

Sadly, earlier this year, fact mimicked fiction when the actor’s death was confirmed by his family.

A few days thereafter, Menzi’s father died and they were laid to rest on the same weekend.

TB Joshua

TB Joshua. Picture: Facebook
TB Joshua. Picture: Facebook

Self-proclaimed prophet, televangelist and philanthropist TB Joshua died earlier this year at the age of 57.

Joshua became notorious in South African media after one of his church’s buildings collapsed and killed several of the faithful, including South Africans. More than 80 people died when a guest house in Nigeria collapsed.

Prince Philip

Prince Philip dies 9 April
(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 25, 2012 Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh waves to well-wishers as he leaves following the Royal family Christmas Day church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, in the east of England, on December 25, 2012. – Queen Elizabeth II’s 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, who was recently hospitalised and underwent a successful heart procedure, died on April 9, 2021, Buckingham Palace announced. (Photo by Leon NEAL / AFP)

In April, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip died at the age of 99 after spending more than a month in hospital following a heart procedure.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement after his death.

According to the palace, he passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle.

FW de Klerk

Later former SA president FW de Klerk
Later former SA president FW de Klerk (Photo by Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Former president of apartheid South Africa, FW de Klerk, died last month in Cape Town, after a battle against cancer. The FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed his death to News24.

There were questions about whether or not he would get an official state funeral, however, he was laid to rest (and cremated) in a private ceremony attended by family only.

Noxolo Maqashalala

Late South actress Noxolo Maqashalala memorial service held at Market theatre in Johannesburg, 24 March 2021. She was found dead at her home in Honeydew, north of Johannesburg. Picture;Nigel Sibanda

Eastern Cape-born actress Noxolo Maqashalala died in March of this year. Maqashalala’s body was found at her Johannesburg home and it is believed that the 44-year-old actress had been dead for about a week before she was found. 

Maqashalala was well known for her role as Viwe in the first three seasons of youth drama series Tsha Tsha. She also appeared in Generations, Binnelanders, Diamond City and Intersexions.

King Zwelithini

Ruling on Zulu trust welcomed
The late king Goodwill Zwelithini was the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust. Picture: Gallo Images/Jabulani Langa

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu died in March at a Durban hospital due to Covid-related complications while being treated for diabetes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa accorded him a Special Official Funeral Category 1 that came with military honours. In September, his son Prince Butho died after a reported long illness.

Other famous people who died this year include Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Real Housewives of Johannesburg star Naledi Willers, Afrikaans musician Theuns Jordaan, fashion designer Virgil Abloh, author Wilbur Smith and former Johannesburg mayor Jolidee Matongo, and ‘Interview With A Vampire’ author Anne Rice to name a few.

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