Most called him 'Sdumo' even off screen because that's how good he was and he's a legend not to be forgotten.

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Most called him 'Sdumo' even off screen because that's how good he was and he's a legend not to be forgotten.


Joe Mafela’s Family Life

Born on 25 June in the Limpopo Province, work forced Joe’s father and mother to move to Johannesburg’s Sophiatown. They lived in this iconic area until Joe was three years old, when he and his mother returned to Limpopo, where she gave birth to the couple’s second son.

A decade later, Joe and Peter reunited, when Peter directed the actor in another movie Shout At The Devil, which was filmed during the 1976 Soweto Riots.

Mafela also acted in the country’s first Black feature film Udeliwe, where he starred opposite Cynthia Shange. This role solidified his acting career, with many young Black men mimicking Joe’s lines.

By the 1980s, Joe started acting in TV series, including the Zulu sitcom Sgudi Snaysi, one of his most iconic roles as Sdumo.

The sitcom was a massive success, and it was also the start of a great working relationship with the public broadcaster at the time. When Joe turned to advertising, it was his role on Sgudi Snaysi that served as his inspiration.

Sgudi Snaysi translated from Zulu means “it’s good, it’s nice”, and Joe turned this into a jingle for the popular chicken franchise Chicken Licken’s TV ads. Soon everyone was singing “it’s good, good, good, it’s good it’s nice”.

Soon Joe was also working in production, doing voice overs, advertising and radio roles. He also started to work with the team at Penguin Films, which he later co-owned, and where he was able to put on his director and producer hats.

Over his career, Joe has acted in several movies and TV series, including Zulu, Escape From Angola, Khululeka, Madam And Eve, Fela’s TV, Going Up and Generations: The Legacy.

During his acting career, Joe also managed the dance groups Mzumba, Sangoma and the Gold Reef Dancers. They performed across the world in theatres and even in movies.

Joe Mafela The Musician

Acting, directing and producing TV series wasn’t enough for Joe, who launched himself as a musician in 1996.

The release of his debut album Shebeleza came at the perfect time. His song, also titled Shebeleza was used as the theme song for the 1996 African Cup Of Nations. This success saw him release additional albums. His musical style is well-known for singing in several South African languages.

Award Glory For Joe Mafela

By the 1990s, Joe Mafela was an icon in South Africa’s entertainment industry – his face and talent recognisable by young and old.

For his career that spanned more than 40 years, Joe has won several awards. This include the Duku Duku Award, he was honoured with a Lifetime Management Achievement Award at the Naledi Theatre Awards and he won the Best Comedic Actor award at the prestigious South African Film And Television Awards.

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Joe "Sdumo" Mafela 1942-2017 Whilst South Africans were consumed with false racist attack and decided to retaliate with further race speech. This legend passed on in a car accident . There was not much media or coverage about his passing because people were so consumed by hate for each other . Mr Mafela was a legend. The times dubbed him as the original "Mr Bean" personally I think he was the original Joe Mafela. His name was a household brand and for many years he had a candid and brilliant comic personality that kept a variety of audiences entertained. He was a natural and was certainly splendid . Sdumo as he was affectionately known was one of my favourite comics and I would thoroughly enjoy his antics and comedic attempts. "Is good is nice " a catch phrase to date which is still used from chicken licken adverts. Joe will forever be remembered for being one of the pioneers in the industry of Theatre, film and television in South Africa 🇿🇦. Aum Shanti 🙏 . . . . . . . . . #southafrica #joemafela #sdumo #comic #artist #fallenhero #hero #apartheidhero #isgoodisnice #deservesbetter #foreverremembered

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Joe Mafela’s Death And Funeral

In March 2017, while on his way home, Joe was involved in a car accident in the north of Johannesburg which took his life, at the age of 75.

He was survived by his wife Andronica, his four children and six grandchildren. After his untimely death, Joe’s son Juju took over his father’s role in the production company Penguin Films, with the hope of taking the company international as was his father’s dream.

South Africa’s entertainment industry paid respect to this icon, with hundreds of family, friends and fans attending his memorial service at the Johannesburg Theatre.


His final resting place in Westpark Cemetery received quite a bit of attention when his tombstone was unveiled.

As someone who entertained South Africans in their homes, Joe Mafela’s extravagant tombstone was a lounge – and it comes with a couch, table and a plasma TV set.

The tombstone was created by Bataung Memorial Tombstones, known for also creating tombstones for other well-known South Africans.

The company said the family wanted to honour the legend’s career, and that’s how the design for the tombstone came to be – as a cost of more than R100 000.

It a touching moment, it was announced during the memorial service that Studio 5, where Generations: The Legacy is filmed, will be renamed in honour of Joe, as The Joe Mafela Studio.