18 July 2003
Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Minister Ben Ngubane has paid tribute to world-acclaimed actor Ramolao Makhene, who died of liver cancer on Sunday, saying the actor inspired South Africans through his commitment to his craft.
“The death of the 56-year-old actor has shaken all of us in the arts community, not least because of his commitment to his craft, which he used to uplift the people of South Africa”, Ngubane said.
Makhene was born in 1947 in Western Native Township. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he worked as a deputy librarian at the Witwatersrand University, but made a leap into acting, where he made his mark as a charismatic actor of international acclaim.
He made his mark as an actor appearing in landmark South African theatre productions such as “Marabi”, and Athol Fugard’s “Nongogo” and “Sophiatown”, which he also co-wrote.
He explored his talents further when he appeared on television productions, featuring in popular dramas and comedies such as “Kelebone”, “Going Up”, “Khululeka” and “Soul City”.
He also appeared in famous productions such as “Iph’ Intombi”, “A Place of Weeping”, and “Cry, the Beloved Country”, earning much acclaim in the process.
He won recognition at the American Film Festival in New York and the Lawrence Olivier Awards in London, and received Vita and Olive Schreiner Awards in South Africa.
The arts and culture department also hailed Makhene for his outstanding job as president of Performing Arts Workers Equity (Pawe), where he helped shape the department’s White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage.
“This White Paper is still the framework which guides the department in its development of policies aimed at improving the working conditions of South African artists,” the department said in a statement.
Andile Xaba, the department’s head of communication, said Makhene strove for equality in the arts, and made the arts more accessible to every South African.
“I think he was aware of government policies. He was one of the people who engaged the department to make the arts better and more accessible in an environment that is more equitable”, Xaba said.
“Pawe collaborated with the department in the International Network on Cultural Policy, where they made valuable input into how government can ensure that indigenous cultures have an influence within the global context”, Xaba added.
“Makhene’s openness, humour and fluent use of tsotsitaal – which is in itself an art form – will be greatly missed.”