Joe Mafela

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Joe Mafela (1942-2017)was a South African actor, comedian, storyteller, writer, producer, director, singer and businessman.


Joe "Sdumo" Mafela was born 1942 in Sibasa, Transvaal, and was brought up in Kliptown and White City Jabavu, in Soweto, near Johannesburg. His family remained in the Tshiawelo Township, that had been set aside for Venda people under apartheid, until 1990.

Mafela died following a car accident on 18 March, 2017.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Film work

He started acting in movies at the age of 22, playing the role of an editor in the movie, Real News (1964). He then had roles in Zulu (1964), Tokoloshe (1971), and in 1974 co-starred in the first all-black movie made in South Africa, playing "Peter Pleasure" in Udeliwe in 1974. He then went on to join the South African film company SA Films, for whom he worked as producer, director and film actor for 20 years.

His other film credits include:

Shout at the Devil (1976)

Escape from Angola (1976)

A Game for Vultures (1979)

Red Scorpion (1989)

Retribution (2011)

Mafela worked for Penguin Films on a large number of productions.


With the advent of television in South Africa in 1976, Mafela worked almost continuously in that medium. In 1986 he was cast as the unemployed lodger S'dumo in the Zulu language comedy series 'Sgudi 'Snaysi. The success of 'Sgudi 'Snaysi – which ran to 78 episodes on SABC – led to roles in other series, often produced by the production company Penguin Films, of which creative producer and a co-owner with Roberta Durrant.

In 1986 he was cast as the unemployed lodger "S'dumo" in the Zulu language comedy series Sgudi 'Snaysi ("Is Good, Is Nice"), which ran for 78 episodes on the SABC.

Other TV series include:

Khululeka (1993)

Going Up (1998)

Madam and Eve (2000)

Fela's TV (2004)

Stokvel (20 - he also came up with the concept for this series)

'Generations: The Legacy (20


He became nationally known for the early Chicken Licken television commercials, which he had not only conceptualised and starred in, but had written the company's "It's good, good, good, it's good its nice" jingle during the making of a Chicken Licken commercial in 1986. He worked as Creative Director of Black Communications at BBDO South Africa and, since 1992, as a director of Sharrer Advertising in Johannesburg.

Composer, musician and singer

In 1996, Gallo Records released the album Shebeleza Felas, with the popular hit Shebeleza (Okongo Mame). It was a huge success, and Shebeleza was a theme song during the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996.

He went on to record and released several other Zulu language albums.

He also managed the multi-ethnic dance troupes Mzumba, Sangoma, and the Gold Reef Dancers, which all performed in feature films, theatres and hotels.

Stage work

He played the lead in the African stage musical Mzumba ("The Dance of Happiness") in 1977-78.

In 2005 he participated in The Baxter Storytelling Festival at The Baxter Theatre Centre (in association with Sibikwa Community Theatre Project). Performed in Mzumba, Game of Vultures.


Artes Award 1992 for his role as Sdumo in S'gudi snaysi (series 5)(best actor in TV 2,3,4 drama).

In 2004 Mafela was awarded a special Duku Duku Award for his services to the South African television industry

In February 2005 he was awarded a Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award.


The Star, 15 February 2005.

SACD 1978/79; 1980/81.

Go to the ESAT Bibliography

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