Duma Ndlovu is an award-winning South African director, producer, and playwright with a net worth estimated at $6 million (R96 million).
His career has spanned over three decades, and he is well-known in the South African film industry as the creator and producer of critically and commercially successful TV series such as Uzalo, Muvhango, and Imbewu: The Seed. He also wrote highly-acclaimed plays, including Bergville Stories. The Soweto-born began his career as a writer soon after completing his high school education.
He then established the Medupe Writers Association in the late ’70s. He eventually positioned himself as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry by founding a production company named Word of Mouth Pictures, which is behind the production of the hit series, Muvhango. Duma has been awarded an honorary Ph.D. degree by the University of Venda and the University of Zululand for his immense contributions to art.
Duma Ndlovu Was Born and Raised in The City of Soweto
In Soweto, a township in the City of Johannesburg, Duma Ndlovu was born on October 12th, 1954. He is presently 69 years old. He grew up in the same township that borders Johannesburg’s mining belt in the south.
He is of Zulu ancestry, and his ancestral home is in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal. Little wonder he sensationally narrated the ordeal of the people living in the Zulu community in his play, Bergville Stories.
Duma Ndlovu’s Academic History
The Muvhango producer completed his high school education at Sekano Ntoane High School, located in Senaoane. Afterward, he had some writing gigs, which enabled him to gain a wealth of experience in the field.
Subsequently, he made a move that positioned him at the forefront in the writing domain by establishing the Medupe Writers Association. After serving as the group’s president for a few years, the association was banned by the apartheid government—this forced Duma Ndlovu to relocate to the United States in 1978.
He enrolled at Hunter College, a public university in New York City, in 1979. Later in 1983, he achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies, Communications. Duma Ndlovu subsequently studied English and Philosophy at the University of Venda.
While in New York, the talented screenwriter lectured on African American literature and music at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Zululand’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in May 2022.
What is Duma Ndlovu’s Net Worth?
Since 1992, Duma Ndlovu has been active in the SA entertainment industry. Through his works as a playwright, director, screenwriter, and producer, he has amassed a huge net worth of over $6 million (R96 million).
He made the bulk of his total fortune by working as the executive producer of highly successful TV series such as Uzalo and Imbewu: The Seed. Having an uncanny ability to write plays and compelling stories, Ndlovu has made a name for himself as a talented playwright and is known for writing many critically acclaimed plays.
Interestingly, some of his plays, including Black Codes From The Underground and The Journey, have been performed in theatres outside South Africa. While the former was first produced in New York in 1989, the latter was produced at the CSI Festival in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2003.
Duma Ndlovu’s staggering net worth has equally been accounted for by the numerous endeavors of his production company, Word of Mouth Pictures. Additionally, he serves as the founder of the Duma Ndlovu Academy (DNA), a training programme for aspiring thespians in SA.
The Famous Playwright Started His Career at The World Newspaper
After high school graduation, Ndlovu started his career by working as a writer for The World Newspaper. He later established the Medupe Writers Association and was the organization’s president. The group helped young black people to develop an interest in writing.
Following its participation in black consciousness and anti-apartheid movements, Medupe Writers Association was banned by the apartheid government in 1977. To avoid prosecution by the government, he fled to the United States. There, he wrote and produced many plays, including Black Codes From The Underground, written alongside Layding Kaliba and Greg Holtz.
He Founded His Movie Production Company, Word of Mouth Pictures, in 1992
After returning to his home country in 1992, Duma Ndlovu ventured into full-time production by establishing Word of Mouth Pictures―a theatre, television, and music production company. The company, which is ranked among the top production companies in SA, has created multi-award-winning soap operas such as Muvhango, Ingozi, Uzalo, and Imbewu: The Seed.
It additionally produced Muvhango, which was the first Tshivenda language TV series and has been running for over 20 years with a viewership of over 4 million daily. Duma’s Word of Mouth Pictures also was the production company of another popular series, Ingozi. The show is a Department of Transport initiative aired on SABC1 from February 2017 to May 2018. It was created, directed, and produced by Duma Ndlovu.
The company further produced several acclaimed theatre works, including the theatrical production of Disney’s The Lion King in 2019. Word of Mouth Pictures was the official casting agent for the Broadway musical. In 2020, it celebrated its 29th anniversary and appointed Mandla KaNozulu, a widely-known playwright and musician, as the chief executive.
Later that same year, it was reported that Duma Ndlovu had sold his production company for an undisclosed fee to a joint venture company between Fergusons Films and Tshedza Pictures. Despite his company being involved in several TV works, it’s still unknown how much Ndlovu earned for his works as the owner of the production company behind popular SA soapies and plays.
Is Duma Ndlovu the Writer of Uzalo?
Though being the creator of the popular TV series, Uzalo, Duma Ndlovu is not among the writers of the show. Uzalo is written by a team of writers including Bridgette Madiba, Clive Madiya, Busisiwe Matonsi, Siphosethu Tshapu, Mmamitse Thibedi, and Salah Sabiti.
However, he directed 1,559 episodes of the crime drama series from 2015 to 2021. In that same period, he served as the producer of 1,645 episodes of Uzalo. Other of Duma Ndlovu’s writing credits include Bergville Stories, which he penned in 1994 and garnered critical acclaim.
Bergville Stories is a high-spirited story of 23 itinerant Zulu men who were hanged in Pretoria Central Prison for killing five South African policemen in a clash that also took the lives of several residents of a rural black community in KwaZulu-Natal in 1956. The play is characterized by a heartfelt expression of ethnic pride and heroism.
It was first produced at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban in 1995 and then had successful runs at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and the Market Theatre in that same year. Later in 1997, Bergville Stories was performed at the New York-based Lincoln Center Theatre.
In April 2004, it was further produced at the Newtown Arts Festival as part of the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture celebration of a decade of democracy in SA. Besides the aforementioned play, the accomplished director also wrote the following:
- The Game
- Sheila’s Day
- The Journey
- The Ritual
Duma Ndlovu’s Movies and TV Shows
Throughout his decades-long career, Duma Ndlovu has served as the executive producer of several TV series and theatre works. Even though how much he earned for his production works is still kept under wraps, it surely accounts for his massive net worth.
Not only is Ndlovu the creator and one of the producers of South Africa’s most-watched soap opera, Uzalo, but also the creator and the producer of Muvhango, which ranks as the most-watched TV series on SABC2 with a viewership of over 6 million.
Added to the aforementioned series is Imbewu: The Seed, which premiered in April 2018. Here’s a sneak peek into these award-winning shows, which are considered Duma Ndlovu’s most famous TV works.
Created by Duma Ndlovu, Uzalo is a South African soapie that premiered on SABC1 in 2015. The multi-award-winning show is produced by Stained Glass Productions, co-owned by Gugu Zuma-Ncube and Kobedi Pokane.
With a compelling storyline and terrific performance from relatively unknown cast members, it became an instant hit on the day of its premiere. Its first episode aired on February 9th, 2015, and was watched by 5.5 average viewers in SA.
Later in the fourth season, in October 2018, one of the episodes titled Wedding Special Part 2 broke the South African TV show rating record. With a viewership of 10.25 million, the episode emerged as the first in the history of South African TV to surpass the 10 million rating mark.
The show further set a new rating record in April 2020 when one of its episodes gained a viewership of 11.4 million. Currently, Uzalo is the most-watched TV series in SA, having shattered all records in the history of television viewing in the country.
Over the years, its popularity has soared immensely as it surpassed Generations: The Legacy as the most-watched TV series in Mzansi in June 2015. The crime drama series follows the story of two young men who were switched at birth and was raised in different family backgrounds.
It stars well-known SA actors, including Masoja Msiza, Baby Cele, and Gugu Gumede. The show has been showing for eight seasons with over 1,800 episodes. Over the years, Uzalo has been nominated for several awards, and they include:
- Simon “Mabunu” Sabela Award for Best Soapie (2015)
- South African Film and Television Award for Best Achievement in Scriptwriting (2017)
- South African Film and Television Awards for Most Popular TV Soap/Telenovela (2019, 2020) and Best Achievement in Sound – TV Soap (2019)
- Royalty Soapie Award for Most Popular Soapie (2020)
Awards won by Uzalo are as follows:
- The Sunday Times (South Africa) Generation Next Awards for Coolest TV Soapie (2016, 2018, 2020)
- South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) for the Most Popular Soapie (2018)
- South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) for Best TV Soap, Best Achievement in Make-up and Hair – TV Soap, and Best Achievement in Wardrobe – TV Soap (2019)
Muvhango was the first Tshivenda language TV drama series in South Africa and was created by Ndlovu. The show first aired on SABC2 on April 7th, 1997, and still runs to date. Besides serving as the creator of the popular soapie, Duma Ndlovu has directed 4,095 episodes of Muvhango since 1997 it premiered.
With Word of Mouth Pictures serving as the production company of the soapie, the renowned playwright produced 4,097 episodes of the show.
Since its release, Muvhango has been well-received by the South African audience. It attained a record of over 6 million viewers in May 2019. It was originally created in TshiVenda but was later incorporated with other South African languages, including Sesotho, isiXhosa, and isiZulu.
This, according to Muvhango‘s creator, is to bridge the cultural gap between the various South African tribes as Tshivenda, at the time of creating the show, was one of the marginalized languages in the country.
Muvhango has had a successful run thus far and has gained an average of 4 million viewers daily. It also has clinched multiple accolades in the process, and they include nominations for the following awards:
- South African Film and Television Award for Best Soap Opera (2006)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Directing – TV Telenovela/ Soap (2006)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Make-up and Hairstyling – TV Soap (2007)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Sound Design – TV Soap, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Scriptwriting, and Best Achievement in Costume Design (2007)
- SAFTA Audience Awards for the Most Popular TV Soap (2011, 2012, 2013, and 2020)
Awards won by Muvhango include:
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Original Score – TV Soap (2007)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design – TV Soap (2009)
Imbewu: The Seed
Imbewu: The Seed is another South African TV drama series created by Duma Ndlovu. Commissioned and distributed by e.tv, the show is produced by Grapevine Productions, a co-production between Ndlovu’s production company, Word of Mouth Pictures, Luyks Productions, and Videovision Entertainment. The series is an e.tv original production and debuted in April 2018.
Imbewu: The Seed has been showing for five seasons. On the day of its premiere, the TV series was watched by 2.7 million viewers. Having gained huge popularity over the years, Imbewu: The Seed attracted more than 4 million viewers on December 6th, 2018. Thus far, Duma Ndlovu has penned 1,008 episodes of the show and has also directed 1,008 episodes.
In 2018, he served as the executive producer of 274 episodes of the TV show. Imbewu: The Seed‘s main cast members include Leleti Khumalo, Thembi Mtshall-Jones, and Lusanda Mbane. The show has received rave reviews from its vast audience and has been recognized with a handful of awards and nominations.
Imbewu: The Seed Award Nominations
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography – TV Soap (2019)
- SAFTA Audience Award for Most Popular TV Soap (2019)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Make-up and Hairstyling – TV Soap/Telenovela (2020)
- SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – Telenovela (2021)
- SAFTA Audience Award for Most Popular TV Soap (2021)
Imbewu: The Seed Award Win
- SAFTA Audience Award for Most Popular TV Soap (2020)
Duma Ndlovu Academy (DNA)
To help aspiring actors have a successful career in acting, Duma Ndlovu established a self-named academy whereby he uses his wealth of experience to tutor graduates from the institutions of drama and the performing arts industry. Once most graduates leave school, they usually find it difficult to adjust and find a rhythm.
As a result, Duma Ndlovu Academy (DNA) for actors workshops is a tutorial programme that serves as a bridging course to help those who have graduated with a diploma or degree in Drama or Performance Arts from art institutions such as UCT, DUT, TUT, and Wits University.
At Duma Ndlovu Academy, the Uzalo creator mostly educates the students on the basic principles of acting and equips them with the work and teaching of some of the stages, mainly Stanislavsky and sometimes deviate into Brook, Chekov, and Grotowski, as these are the vital fundamentals in the industry.
The audition for Duma Ndlovu Academy takes place annually and accepts only 30 talented South African youth. The actor’s workshops are held at The Joburg Theatre Complex, and all the classes are conducted at the venue every week. The DNA classes and workshops are reportedly free and help to instill a strong desire for knowledge and education in young enthusiastic learners.
All that is required from interested candidates is an audition with any monologue of choice at the beginning of every year. The actor’s workshops last for one year, and at the end of the programme, students will be handed a recognizable certificate.
Duma Ndlovu’s Net Worth Increased With The Woza Afrika Festivals
Duma Ka Ndlovu established the Woza Afrika Foundation in 1985 during his stay in New York City, United States. The foundation was founded to provide young black aspiring actors with the opportunity to pursue their chosen career paths and raise funds to support overall Arts in SA.
To shed light on the project, Ndlovu directed Woza Afrika: After Apartheid series as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in 1997. The festival, which comprised five South African plays, was further performed at the New Playwrights’ Theatre in Washington D.C. in September 1986. It was co-produced by Woza Afrika Foundation alongside Lincoln Center and New Playwrights’ Theatre.
The Woza Afrika festival of plays featured about 30 South African actors, playwrights, and directors to display the quality of South African theatre. The tickets for the festivals were sold for $15, and New Playwrights Theatre had about 125 seating capacity at the time. New playwrights also received a $50,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to support the Woza Afrika Festival.
The DNA Founder is a Recipient of Multiple Accolades
Duma Ndlovu has been recognized throughout his career of over 30 years with some accolades. Not only was he honored with an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Venda for his diverse works in Muvhango, but he was also honored by Charles Rangel, United States Congressman, who declared May 9th as Duma Ndlovu and Mbongeni Ngema Day in Harlem, New York due to the pair’s contribution to Arts.
Who are Duma Ndlovu’s Family Members?
Despite being in the limelight for several years, there are still vague details regarding Duma Ndlovu’s parents and siblings. Nevertheless, the former South African Music Awards chairman is known to have a younger brother named Christopher Ndlovu. Like Duma, Christopher is also active in the entertainment industry.
He worked for more than 13 years as a film editor at Word of Mouth Pictures, that is co-founded by his elder brother. Before that, he served as an IT specialist at Tastic Rice for 12 years and 5 months. He joined the company in January 1989 and left in May 2001.
Then in August 2008, he became a member of the staff of Word of Mouth Pictures as an online editor. He had an editing role in the soapie, Muvhango and was also involved in the show’s post-production.
Did Duma Actually Fire His Brother From His Production Company?
Christopher Ndlovu’s time in the Word of Mouth Pictures was halted after more than 13 years of service in 2021. He reportedly got sacked by the company’s executives. Speaking about the abrupt termination of his appointment, Christopher said that he loyally served the company for over a decade and was diligent about his duties, which confused him about getting fired.
However, he cited that he had often been at loggerheads with his elder brother and that their personal or family differences might have been the reason for his sacking. Muvhango publicist Amanda Ngudile later disclosed that Christopher Ndlovu wasn’t dismissed due to his differences with Duma Ndlovu.
But, he was sacked after being warned at the start of the year regarding his attitude to work. The executives eventually decided to terminate his appointment after refusing to participate in the processes outlined to him earlier on.