Joe Mafela

Joe Mafela was a South African actor, writer, producer, director, singer and businessman. He was best known for his portrayal of Sdumo, an unemployed lodger in the Zulu language comedy series ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi. At the time of his death he was starring on Generations: The Legacy as Tebogo Moroka.

Born Joe Mafela
Sibasa, Limpopo
South Africa
Death March 18, 2017
M1 highway
Johannesburg, Gauteng
South Africa
Cause of Death TBD
Occupation Actor, Writer
Producer, Director
Singer, Businessman
Notable Work ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi
Record Label Gallo Records
Since 1964 – 2017
Agent Unknown
Website Unknown

Joe Mafela was born in Sibasa, Transvaal (today’s Limpopo province), South Africa. He was was brought up in Kliptown and White City Jabavu in the township of Soweto in Johannesburg, and then his family remained until 1990 in the Tshiawelo Township that had been set aside for Venda people under the Apartheid government.

Joe Mafela began acting in movies at age 22, playing the role of an editor in the movie, Real News. He joined the South African film company SA Films, and over the following twenty years he worked as a producer and director as well as a film actor. He also managed the multi-ethnic dance troupes Mzumba, Sangoma, and the Gold Reef Dancers, which performed in feature films, theaters, and hotels and appeared on four continents.

In 1974 Mafela co-starred in the first all-black movie made in South Africa, as Peter Pleasure in Udeliwe. He worked with director Peter R. Hunt (famed for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) in the 1976 film Shout at the Devil. With the advent of television in South Africa in 1976, Joe 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 (“Is Good, Is Nice”) – which ran to 78 episodes on SABC – led to roles in other series, often produced by Joe Mafela’s own production company Penguin Films. It also encouraged Joe Mafela to enter the advertising industry, working as Creative Director of Black Communications at BBDO South Africa and, since 1992, as a director of Sharrer Advertising in Johannesburg.

Joe Mafela conceptualised and starred in early Chicken Licken television commercials, and authored the company’s “It’s good, good, good, it’s good its nice” jingle during the making of a Chicken Licken commercial in 1986.

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. Since then, Joe Mafela has recorded and released several other albums of Zulu-language songs.

Sometimes called “the face of South African entertainment”, and as “South Africa’s Bill Cosby”, he starred as recently as 2011 in the thriller Retribution. Nonetheless, the aging Mafela complained in 2012 that it was hard for him to get acting work. He said he’s been told that he is “old and cold”.

In 2015 Joe Mafela joined the cast of the revamped Generations: The Legacy as the patriarch of the fictional ultra wealthy Johannesburg family, the Morokas. The role he played until his death. His portrayal of Tebogo Moroka was arguably his most prominent role in many years as the show enjoys a prime time slot and millions of viewers.


Select Filmography
Year Title Role Notes
1964 Zulu Minor Role, Feature Film
1971 Tokoloshe Minor Role, Feature Film
1974 Fraud! Newspaper Vendor’s Friend Minor Role, Feature Film
1975 UDeliwe Peter Pleasure Lead Role, Feature Film
1975 Inkedama Minor Role, Feature Film
1976 Ngwanaka Minor Role, Feature Film
1976 Shout at the Devil Minor Role, Feature Film
1976 Escape from Angola Minor Role, Feature Film
1977 Inyakanyaka Police sergeant Minor Role, TV Comedy
1979 A Game for Vultures Minor Role, Feature Film
1984 Stoney: The one and Only Man in the Crowd Minor Role, Feature Film
1986 – 1993 Sgudi ‘Snaysi Sdumo Lead Role, TV Comedy
1989 Mercenary Fighters Jaunde’s aide Minor Role, Feature Film
1989 Red Scorpion Minor Role, Feature Film
1993 Khululeka Lead Role, TV Series
1998 Going Up! Jabulani Cebekhulu Lead Role, TV Comedy
2000 – 2005 Madam & Eve Sol Lead Role, TV Comedy
2007 – 2010 Shooting Stars Pule Supporting Role, TV Series
2011 Retribution Khumbulani Maphosa Lead Role, Feature Film
2011 The Wild Uncle Whatnot Supporting Role, Soap Opera
2015 Z’bondiwe Old Man Piet Minor Role, TV Series
2015 – 2017 Generations: The Legacy Tebogo Morka Lead Role, Soap Opera


Death; March 18, 2017

Joe Mafela died at the scene of a car accident at 21:45 on Saturday on the M1 highway between Oxford Road and Houghton along a passage of road where construction was underway.

“We can confirm that at 21:45 on M1 North between the Oxford and Houghton turn-offs there was an accident between a Ford Figo and a bakkie which took place in construction zone. The Bakkie hit the Ford which caused damage to the left hand side of the Ford Figo. The driver of the Figo [Mr Mafela] was declared fatal by paramedics on the scene. His fatal condition may have been a medical condition that was brought in during the accident but an investigation into this is now underway,” said Johannesburg Metro police spokesperson Edna Mamonyane.

“The injuries were not visible… it looks like it could have been a medical condition,” said Johannesburg Metro Police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane.  Mr Mafela was driving a Ford Figo… He collided into the back of a bakkie on his left hand side. The bakkie driver then lost control and went into the barricade, with its rear tyre breaking off. When paramedics arrived on the scene, Mr Mafela had passed on.

It is important to note that the initial reports stated that the bakkie collided into Joe Mafela’s Ford Figo, however the reports that followed stated that Joe Mafela’s Ford Figo hit the bakkie from behind. This creating a misunderstanding of the events that went on that night. Edna Mamonyane stated that the investigation was underway but it was more likely that Joe Mafela did not die due to the car accident but rather a medical condition.