Zola 7 (born April 24, 1977; Age 46 years old) is a South African Kwaito musician, poet, actor, TV presenter, and writer who gained national recognition through his role as the notorious gangster Papa Action in the TV series, Yizo Yizo 2. His net worth is estimated at R3 million.
Zola 7’s won the hearts of the masses in the 2000s through his philanthropic efforts via the reality TV show Yizo Yizo, which aired between 2002 and 2010. He is considered a community builder with a high success rate, having helped thousands of less privileged South Africans.
How Old is Zola 7 and Where Was He Born?
South African veteran Kwaito superstar Zola 7 is 46 years old as he was born in one of the ghettos in the city of Soweto, precisely in a village called Zola. The music star was raised alongside his elder brother and sister by their mother after his father left his family when the siblings were still young.
The Impepho crooner had a difficult childhood due to the absence of a father figure in his life. His mother faced financial hardship, leading the siblings to become “adults fast”. He reunited with his father in 2019.
Growing up in a high crime rate environment, Zola 7 was forced to take part in some violent and criminal acts as a young boy. He was nabbed for car theft in his teens and was subsequently sent to prison. He turned a new leaf after serving his jail terms.
From then onwards, he began to harbour so much passion and concern for his people and also took it upon himself to tackle the black struggle and unemployment crisis in the region.
He Adopted His Stage Name from his Hometown
Zola 7 was originally born Bonginkosi Dlamini. His stage name Zola was adopted from his hometown, Zola, in Soweto. The actor’s love for his hometown knows no bounds, which explains why many of his songs describe life situations in Zola and other black-populated townships.
Not only that Dlamini’s native home is well-known for its high crime rate, but other things the community is also known for include alcoholism, a high unemployment rate, and single-parenthood.
He effectively used one of his songs, Star, to send heart-warming well-wishes and eternal gratitude to his hometown, promising to “make them prominent if he were to be the president”.
He Began His Career on the Small Screen as an Actor
Zola 7 first tasted fame on national TV as a cast in season 2 of the local television series Yizo Yizo. He portrayed a notorious gangster called Papa Action, thereby increasing the popularity of the role. The character was previously played by another actor who has a physical resemblance to Zola 7.
He appeared in a support role in the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi in 2005. Interestingly, he was also the one who performed the score in the project. The previous year, he had a role in the movie Drum, for which he earned more fans across the country.
The proof of Zola 7’s acting prowess lies in the fact that he didn’t only make appearances in TV series and movies alone but also in a prominent documentary directed by the renowned film director Aryan Kaganof.
Both of them worked together in the documentary SHARP! SHARP!- the kwaito story in 2003, and Dlamini starred as a major character. Other TV projects he appeared in include Zabalaza (season 3), aYeYe (season 1), Isibaya (seasons 3 and 4), iNkaba (season 1)
Utatakho (season 1), and Zaziwa (season 1).
After a Satisfactory Time on TV, He Branched into Music
Zola 7 is considered the most famous Kwaito singer of his time. Interestingly, he wasn’t originally a fan of the Kwaito music genre. He later switched to the genre in a bid to pass meaningful messages across to the younger generation through his songs.
He rose to an enviable height in his musical career in the 2000s. He was loved for his rapping style, mainly in isiZulu, with a high usage of Tsotsitaal (a vernacular slang in South Africa) which fostered better interaction and flow among locals.
He also infused people’s stories into his music, particularly Soweto natives. Zola 7 released his first two albums, Umdlwembe and Khokhovula, in 2000 and 2002, respectively. His third and fourth releases, Bhambatha (2004) and iButho (2005), were nothing short of incredible as well.
Bonginkosi songs such as Himself (Think About It), Kuyoze Kube Nini, Don’t Cry, Jongosi, and uNosonka are quite compelling because they specifically focus on young people’s navigation of South Africa’s unemployment crisis.
He also did a gospel tune from the album Bhambatha titled Thobile, which featured an unknown singer. The project was met with positive reviews and trended for a long time. Apart from his local performances across major cities in the country, Zola 7 stunned the audiences at the South African leg of Live Earth that took place on 7th July 2007.
Zola 7’s Music Career Decline
Dlamini’s career started declining in the late 2000s, at a time Kwaito gradually started losing its top spot to other genres such as hip-hop, Afro-pop, and house. Although he kept making music then but they weren’t just sticking as they did earlier in his career.
Not only him, but the results weren’t favourable to other kwaito artists in the country. The musician’s messy clash with the music label Ghetto Ruff (now known as Muthaland Entertainment) also contributed to shrinking his reputation.
He released his first four albums with the label. The fight between the two parties began after Zola accused the company of owning him millions. The scuffle led to Muthaland Entertainment boss Lance Stehr turning to the courts in 2015 to obtain a protection order against Zola 7 after claims of harassment.
The age-long gender-based violence allegations against him also impacted his career even though he has never accepted treating his first wife and baby mama badly. The former accused him of ruining her life in the name of marriage even after dumping him at his mother’s home in Dobonville Soweto after their traditional marriage, while the latter only wants him to accept the paternity of their kids, which he has refused to do over the years.
Zola 7 recently affirmed that he has seven kids (with three women) but only knows of two.
The Star Debuted as a TV Personality with the Show, Zola 7 in 2002
Zola 7 was a powerful TV reality programme that ran on SABC1 from 2002 to 2010. It was not just an ordinary show but the musician and his team’s philanthropic effort to help people make positive changes in their personal lives and communities.
Each episode focused on a young person who, in the long run, realized his or her dream through Dlamini’s support. By the time Zola 7 ended, destitute students were assisted with bursaries; stepping stones were made available for creatives and athletes to break into the game, and the homeless had homes built for them.
He Returned to TV as the Host of Another Philanthropic Show in 2015
Although the show ended prematurely, it presented opportunities for people to reconnect with their absent biological fathers. The name of the show was Utatakho, and it aired on Mzansi Magic.
Zola, being the presenter, helped participants in each episode to find or reconnect with their biological fathers. He accompanied participating sons to meetings with their fathers and also facilitated conversation. A professional counsellor was hired to move around with them for mediation.
When the show came to an end after eight episodes, it was rumoured that Zola 7 left the show due to his own child maintenance problems. In 2021, he addressed the allegation, revealing that he left after a call with the initiator of the show, who felt he (the initiator) wasn’t benefitting financially from the show.
Sadly, His Third Hosting Stint on the Show ‘Hope with Zola’ Didn’t Get Anywhere
Unlike his former show, Zola 7, which focused on individuals, the docu-reality show – Hope with Zola – basically addressed communities with a key interest in sustainable development.
The channel Moja Love announced its team-up with Zola on the show in the year 2018. The 30 minutes-per-episode series focused on alleviating social problems such as insufficient community libraries, housing shortages, and youth unemployment. Unfortunately, Hope with Zola was shelved after a short time on TV.
It Would be Difficult to Forget Zola 7’s Efforts as a Community Builder and Philanthropist
Bonginkosi Dlamini may have been caught in the web of so much public drama and controversy, but the people are choosing to remember him for his selfless deeds. His achievements have been listed severally on social media, with calls for his return to the TV to assist helpless South Africans.
He is credited with building a library in Mthatha, assisting students with scholarships, helping small businesses, and doing many other philanthropic deeds. When the news of his horrible medical condition was publicized after a fatal accident in Meadowland in early 2021 left him penniless and frail-looking, the masses immediately requested his account details and called the government for urgent help.
— Lee 🌻 (@Liezl_C_Phokane) March 8, 2022
In April 2022, Zola 7 was given his roses when he could smell them by Kwaito artists who organized a mega kwaito concert in Mpumalanga in his honour, captioned: The Strictly Kwaito Legends Festival.
He shared the stage with veteran Kwaito legends such as Alaska, Doc Shebeleza, Nestum Spikiri, Mapaputsi, Professor, and others.
Zola 7 Has Won Several Industry Awards
He has four South African Music Awards (SAMA) and three Metro FM Awards.
- Artist of the Year – 2002
- Best Kwaito Album – Umdlwembe
- Best Soundtrack for the TV series Yizo Yizo
- Best Music Video – Ghetto Scandalous
Metro FM Awards – 2001
- Best Album of the Year – Umdlwembe
- Song of the Year – Ghetto Scandalous
- Best Kwaito Album – Umdlwembe
Zola 7’s Net Worth
Bonginkosi Dlamini holds the record as the most successful and popular Kwaito singer of his time. At the height of his career, he amassed so much wealth not only from singing but other lucrative endeavours also. He owns a record label called Guvuna entertainment.
Before his financial troubles, he had an estimated net worth of R300 million. However, a lot has changed in his financial life, which triggered bankruptcy. He announced in October 2022 that he is fast recovering and was ready to go back to what he loved doing.
Since then, he has been seen in posters for music events in some cities in the country. It is difficult to tell the value of his assets currently. However, it is known that his medical challenge, the alleged millions of debt by his former record label, and personal woes led to his low net worth.
Some sources claim he’s worth around R3 million currently. He still makes money from his record label.
How Much Did Mamkhize Give to Zola 7?
South African controversial businesswoman and reality TV star Shauwn Mamkhize reportedly gave Zola 7 one million rands the day she and her son Andile Mpisane visited the singer.
She is said to have also allowed him to sit in her luxury Bently. However, Bonginkosi and his team have denied the report that the singer was gifted the said amount. He instead mentioned that they only had a nice time hanging together and nothing more.
Shauwn, however, is yet to react to Zola 7’s statement on the issue.
Zola 7’s House and Cars
Zola 7 was never known for living a flashy lifestyle like most celebrities of his era. He devoted his time and invested his money in helping others. In 2016, he reportedly sold two of his houses in Melville for about R1.4 million to sponsor the accommodation rent of some University of Johannesburg (UJ) students.
Dlamini currently lives in Joburg, but there is no available about the worth of the apartment he lives in with his family. Some of the luxurious cars he had then were BMW Z4, Hemi V8, and Chrysler 300 C. The current list of cars he drives is not public knowledge.