Afew weeks before actor Jabu Christopher “Gunman” Kubheka committed suicide, he confided in his family and close friends that life was tough because he was struggling to find a job. Friend Refilwe Lekalakala said even though Kubheka told her about his struggles, no one had realised how deeply they had affected him. Her regret now is that as family and friends, they could have done more to save his life.
“Two days before he committed suicide, I was with him and he was jolly and happy. Little did I know that he was planning something. No one saw this coming. We wouldn’t expect this from him. Only God knows,” she said.
On Monday Kubheka’s lifeless body was found by his wife of seven years, Cynthia Khumalo, at around 4.30pm hanging from a burglar gate in the Soshanguve home they shared.
Lekalakala said even though they wanted to celebrate his life, it was difficult, especially after having seen where he died. “It was a bad scene. We found tablets on the table,” she said.
Lekalakala added that even though Kubheka drank alcohol almost every day, he was serious about life.
Kubheka’s death also appears to have unmasked divisions within his family. Two of his relatives, who asked not to be named, said they suspected he had marital problems that he kept to himself. One family member, who claimed she was Kubheka’s cousin, said he had paid ilobolo for Cynthia a few years ago.
“But we are surprised why, as chief mourner, she isn’t sitting on the mattress. This week she came with a trailer with Jabu’s belongings and she didn’t even come into the family home in Mofolo North, [Soweto],” she said.
But family spokesperson Thami Madondo denied this, saying Cynthia was sitting on the mattress but that the family had allowed her to leave to make some of the funeral arrangements.
On Friday, Kubheka’s family and close friends paid tribute to him at the Soweto Theatre. Speaker after speaker described him as a happy soul full of jokes.
Kubheka’s daughter, Khanyisile Tshabalala (16), told mourners the family would ensure that they lived his legacy. She said the last time she spoke to her dad was four months ago. “Although we didn’t speak to each other every day, I knew he loved his children,” she said. Kubheka (48) has left behind more than 10 children.
Khanyisile said her father would be sad to see them crying. “I know for sure he is there looking at us and smiling in heaven. He touched many lives while he was still alive and we are going to do the same as him. We are proud to be Gunman’s children.”
Actress Nambitha Mpumlwana told mourners she was devastated when she heard of Kubheka’s death.
“He was hurting and in pain. He was dismissed in his circle of friends and family. People must also remember that we do this [acting] for a living. Most of us as actors we are struggling. There are a very few talented actors who are working,” she said.
Mpumlwana pleaded with mourners to respect and support their craft. “Please people, see us. When I am not working ask me: ‘What are you eating?’ Don’t judge me instead,” she said. Actor Meshack Mavuso spoke of Kubheka’s big break. “When he was cast in the popular drama Yizo Yizo, his character was supposed to die. But the writers and directors of the show decided to grow his character because that’s how great he was as an actor,” he said. Mavuso said they had changed the face of TV. Kubheka was discovered by Bomb Productions director and producer Angus Gibson, who described him as a “small package of dynamite” with bags of talent. “He understood physical comedy and he also had electrical energy. He was a star to me. I liked that guy so much. I am going to miss the life that he brought to our TV screens,” Gibson said.
Kubheka was best known for his role as Gunman on the SABC1 drama Yizo Yizo and as Bazooka Khumba on the channel’s Zone 14. He started his acting career at Positive Creative Arts in Zola, Soweto.
His funeral will be held today at Umthombo Wolwazi Hall in Dobsonville Extention 3, Soweto. He will be buried at Avalon Cemetery.
BEREAVED Jabu Kubheka’s wife, Cynthia Khumalo, during a memorial service in Soweto
DYNAMITE Zone 14 actor Jabu ‘Gunman’ Kubheka was struggling to get a job