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Coronavirus claims South African promoters

Two popular South African concert promoters have died of Covid-19.

Thirty-five-year-old Pheko Kgengoe and Shonisani Lethole, 33, both passed away on 30 June after being admitted to hospitals in Johannesburg after contracting the coronavirus.

Lethole was known locally for his workshops connecting African artists with international opportunities. Siyabonga Mthembu, co-founder of Afro-jazz group the Brother Moves On, tells Music in Africa Lethole made an “immense” contribution to the South African music scene.

He comments: “Shoni introduced us to our first real manager, Adi Frost. His endeavoured to connect African artists. […] He introduced the new artists to the old-school players. Shoni respected and loved us all. He showed the kind of love for music that made him a big part of the Johannesburg live music scene.”

“I hear so many people saying the dearest things about Shoni now – his close friends in Johannesburg and his close-at-heart, far-away friends in Oslo, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles,” says Norwegian promoter and distributor Trond Torner, who worked with Lethole.

“Shoni respected and loved us all”

“And I feel I’m not alone when experiencing a deep vacuum from where Shoni would be. He felt like a brother to us all. Shoni’s name will be forever.”

Kgengoe’s career included spells at Universal Music and Sony Music, and he later established his own PR company, 4 the Love.

“He was very passionate and contributed a lot to the music industry. His death is a loss to the whole industry,” says local music PR specialist Thabisa Mogwathle. “It has not fully sunk in that he is gone. He was a friend, a brother and a business partner as we worked on various projects together.”

Authorities are investigating the circumstances of Lethole’s death at Tembisa Hospital, after he tweeted he had not eaten for 48 hours in the days leading up to his passing.

There has been a surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa in recent weeks, with localised outbreaks reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria as Africa’s most developed country goes back to work.


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