How Market Theatre suspends Ngema for ‘acts of misconduct’

Internationally renowned playwright Mbongeni Ngema faced a ban from Joburg Market Theatre nine months prior to his tragic passing following allegations of “acts of misconduct” directed at him.
The shocking ban was disclosed in an email sent to Ngema by Greg Homann, the artistic director of Market Theatre Foundation, on March 29 of the previous year.
This information was shared with us by a displeased family member who disagreed with the Market Theatre Foundation’s decision to collaborate with the Gauteng provincial government to honor Ngema posthumously through annual lectures at the institution.
The email detailed that Ngema, a distinguished figure in theatre, had proposed to showcase his production, Black, at the theatre. However, as per the email we reviewed, Homann stated that Ngema, who tragically lost his life in a car accident on December 27 while traveling to a funeral in the Eastern Cape, was prohibited from presenting his new work at the theatre due to widely publicized allegations of misconduct at other national theatres.

The email reads in parts: “Dear Mbongeni Ngema, I am writing to inform you that your proposal to present a new work at the Market Theatre will not be considered any further. The Market Theatre Foundation has carefully thought through having BLACK on the John Kani stage, and, in doing so, has taken into account widely reported acts of misconduct at other national theatres involving you.

“As an organisation committed to upholding the highest ethical and professional standards in the performing arts, we take such reports seriously and must act in the best interest of our patrons, artists, and employees.”

Although he did not disclose details of Ngema’s alleged offences, Homann hinted production employees were not safe in his presence.

“While we appreciate your past contributions to our theatre and acknowledge your artistic contribution, we must prioritise the safety and well-being of all individuals involved in our productions,” he said in the email.

Homann further said it was a risk to have his work in the theatre because his company, Committed Artists, owed the theatre money.

“In addition, our records show that your company, Committed Artists, still owes us a significant amount dating back to 2014. The financial risk of having your production at The Market Theatre is a further concern. We understand that this decision may be disappointing, but we hope that you will understand our position and our commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all,” Homann stated in the email.

In his State of the Province Address (Sopa), Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said that, in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the performing arts, they will launch the annual Mbongeni Ngema Lecture in partnership with the Market Theatre, and the National Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture.

But Ngema’s next of kin, said, although they applaud Panyaza’s move to honour the Stimela hitmaker, he should remove the Market Theatre Foundation from the partnership.

“They humiliated him when he was alive, and now that he is dead, they want to pretend that they loved him.

“These hypocrites who run our Market Theatre have no shame and no regard for a black child,” said the relative.

Homann said he was surprised the family was offended because he had a friendly conversation with them after his death. He declined to comment further.

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