Shaka Zulu is known to be the king who gave rise to one of the most popular tribes in Southern Africa, that of the Zulu’s. He became a Zulu leader in 1816 and due to determination and brutal strength, he conquered most of South Africa’s neighbouring tribes, and thus made the Zulu’s one of the most prominent if not the most prominent cultural tribe in South Africa. It therefore came as no surprise when in 1986 William C Faure and Joshua Sinclair brought the character of Shaka Zulu back to life by making the prestigious series Shaka Zulu. The role of the most savage warrior of all time was played by South African actor, Henry Cele. We look at the man behind the role of one of the most famous Kings in the world.
1. Shaka Zulu Stage Production:
Henry Cele was picked to play the role of Shaka Zulu after he had displayed a magnificent performance of the most famous Zulu king of all time in a stage production that started in Johannesburg on June 1984 – May 1985. It so happened that the writer of the Shaka Zulu series saw him perform on stage and approached him to do the mini series on television.
2. Nicknamed The ‘Black Cat’:
Before Henry Cele made his debut on the international screen, he was a prominent goal keeper for the Zulu Royals football club, and he was such a prestigious goal keeper, his team mates named him ‘The Black Cat’. Football remained his first love throughout his life as a South African actor as he continued to coach a football club till he died.
3. International Status:
Cele also received minor international roles on movies like the Last Samurai, the Ghost and the Darkness and Point of Impact.
4. Big Sister:
Henry Cele was Ruth Cele’s brother, the woman who played on SABC first favourite TV series Hlalakwabafileyo. His sister played the role of Mamghobhozi, the aunt who knew everyone’s business and the series’s gossiper.
5. Personal Life:
Henry Cele was married to Tozi Duma to which he had 4 children with, their marriage had ended in a divorce after 6 years of marriage.
6. Married Life:
After divorcing Duma, Henry Cele married an English woman named Jennifer ‘Jenny’ Hollander, but the two never had children together. At the time of his death, he had been married to Jennifer for 10 years. The 2 had met while Cele was touring Europe and it was love at first sight.
7. He Gave Back to His Community:
Henry Cele gave back to his community in KwaMashu KZN by opening his own football club, and he coached boys from underprivileged KZN communities.
8. Best Friends:
Henry Cele’s best friend was Ronald Mqwebu, who also played in the popular series Mzini Wezinsizwa as Mkhize. The two men hailed from KwaMashu in KZN.
9. End of Life:
Henry Cele fell ill complaining of chest pain in October of 2007, he stayed in hospital for 2 weeks and was diagnosed with a chest infection.
10 Sad ending:
When Henry Cele died, he was reported to have been unemployed, sick and had moved out of his suburban home of KZN moving back at home to KwaMashu.
11. Financial Troubles
His wife Jennifer reported that he had to be tied to his bed prior to his death as he had become very violent and was cursing at the nurses trying to assist him. His sister Ruth reportedly told the press that he was depressed because he was broke, and that it seemed South Africa had forgotten about him in his time of need.
12. Sad Ending:
His neighbour reported that he had become very thin and was coughing excessively when he was admitted to hospital. His family had become fiercely overprotective of him and he was shielded away from even his friends during his period of illness.
13. Family Politics:
A memorial service was held for Bheki Cele where it had been apparent that his ex-wife and his current wife did not get along. The wife had said that the funeral was to be attended by only family members, but Cele’s ex-wife Duma and her children insisted that Cele was a people’s person, and so all his fans and celebrity friends should be at the funeral.
14. Henry Cele’s Death:
Henry Cele died on the 2nd of November 2007 after 2 weeks of being hospitalized.