CityLife Arts

World renowned playwright Welcome Msomi dies

By Edward Tsumele

Decorated South African playwright Welcome Msomi has died. He was aged 76. Hailing from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, Msomi was confirmed dead yesterday by his lawyer Benito Mangolele.

Mangolele who could not give further details about the circumstances surrounding the ailing playwright’s death, but referred questions to Msomi’s family. 

At the time of his death Msomi who had suffered a stroke last year leaving him paralysed, was awaiting sentencing in regards to his guilty verdict of fraud and theft involving R8 million. This money was meant to benefit arts veterans and was made available to the artists by the Department of Arts and Culture.

Msomi made his name when he wrote and directed the play Umabatha.an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as well as making a name for himself by writing his first book in isiZulu at the age of 15.

His other theatre credits include Buya Africa, a Royal Shakespeare Company production, among others, work which gained the playwright world acclaim as one of the significant theatre voices from South Africa. In his lifetime he was a decorated playwright who unfortunately was disgraced by some of the choices he made late in his life.

Some of this recognition includes the Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre from the Arts & Culture Trust in 2012 and he served on several arts boards before he fell on hard times after the R8 million financial scandal broke out leading him to step down as director of Meropa Communications among other business interests.

Msomi was found guilty of theft and fraud in October 2019 of stealing R8m from the Living Legends Legacy Programme trust account. His sentencing was postponed because of his health.

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