A Brown Wooden Coffin.
A Brown Wooden Coffin. Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels.com

Mbongeni Ngema, a South African playwright, composer, director and theater producer, died at the age of 68 in a car crash on Wednesday evening.

His family confirmed the tragic news, noting that the accident happened when he was returning from a funeral in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape.

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband and patriot, Mbongeni Ngema. He was a passenger in the vehicle," the family said in a statement, TimesLive reported.

Several people, including South African officials, took to social media to express their sadness over the tragic news.

Zizi Kodwa, the minister of Sports, Arts and Culture of South Africa, shared a photo of the late artist, and wrote, "I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Dr Mbongeni Ngema, one of South Africa's great playwrights, directors, lyricists and composers."

The minister added, "Dr. Ngema's internationally acclaimed work, from Sarafina to Stimela sase Zola, told distinctly South African stories and experiences."

Lebo M, a South African composer, shared a photo of the late playwright alongside a hashtag, "#legend."

Penuel The Black Pen, a social media influencer also mourned Ngema's death, writing, "Rest in Peace, Mbongeni Ngema. Musical genius. Charmer. Playwright. .. You left us with classics! You deserved to be a global star like Lebo M & John Kani! Lala ngoxolo."

While Ngema was a popular South African artist, he also gained international fame from his 1992 classic "Sarafina!". It was a musical thriller that highlighted South Africans' struggles during apartheid. He also co-wrote the multi-award-winning "Woza Albert!," a satirical South African political play.

Ngema, 68, worked in the music department in Disney's animated film "The Lion King," which was released in 1994. He recently appeared in a comedy movie, "A Queen's Lobola," released earlier this month.

In a 2018 interview, Ngema expressed satisfaction and joy in knowing that his work would outlast him. However, he shared his frustration that newbies in the industry don't want to learn from the veterans.

"What frustrates me the most is that young artists don't want to learn from us who have been in this industry for a while. I remember when I started out I learnt so much from Gibson Kente," he said at that time.

"I decided to go live at his house to learn how he wrote music and everything about him. I don't see enough young people wanting to learn. I feel like the thirst to learn is lacking in today's generation," he added.