Mbongeni Ngema was born 1 June, 1956 in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal (near Durban). He is a South African writer, lyricist, composer, director and theatre producer,. He started his career as a theatre backing guitarist.
Ngema has distinguished himself as a renowned playwright, screenwriter and librettist. He is best known as the Writer of the internationally acclaimed and award-winning musical Sarafina!, which was nominated for five Tony Awards, and later nominated for the prestigious Grammy Awards. The musical won 11 NAACP Image Awards enjoyed a two-year run on Broadway, toured the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan and was later adapted into a feature film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo and Miriam Makeba.
He was previously married to actress Leleti Khumalo, who received a 1988 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Sarafina!, as well as starring in the leading role in South Africa’s first Oscar-nominated film Yesterday. He co-wrote the multi-award winning Woza Albert!.
Ngema prides himself on being from the lineage of the warriors Mbandama and Sigcwelegcwele kaMhlekehleke of the Mbongeni clan who led the Ingoba Makhosi regiment, a pivotal regiment that defeated the British armies at the Battle of Isandlwana in the Anglo-Zulu war, on 22 January 1879.
To add to the growing list of accolades, Ngema has recently been conferred with an honorary doctorate from the Good Shepherd College of Religion, Culture and skills training. This prestige was in honour and recognition of Ngema’s service to South African music and on-going impact in the arts sector. Mbongeni was recently the recipient of a prestigious Life Time Achievement Award, presented to him at the Naledi Awards ceremony held in Johannesburg in 2014.
Ngema has participated in a song called “Take This Song”, recorded with the reggae band Third World.