South Africa’s queen of gospel music Dr Rebecca Malope 51 is prepared to pass the torch to
the new crop of gospel artists, and guide them all the way, as she is still going strong. She
boasts many decades in the fraternity, with more than 21 gongs to her credit.
It is always a tall order for one to abandon what he or she knows best, let alone retiring with
youthful energy still running in the veins, but Malope is more than grateful doing so after a
worthwhile thought, for her, it was not an impulse decision. It seemed she planned her
retirement while at the beacon of her career, and has accumulated enough wealth to see
herself through her old age.
“In fact, I have five paid-up houses. Three of them are in Gauteng and two are in my home
province of Mpumalanga. I’ve always known that one day I’ll retire, and I’ll need to retire
“I don’t have cars because I don’t believe they are a good investment. I can’t say how much
I’m worth but I believe I am okay,” she told DRUM magazine recently, and added: “As artists
we don’t have a pension fund yet we pay tax. This is unfair but I can’t exactly complain
because our government knows our plight.”
Her decision to put the microphone down has not been born out of fear for competition. No.
But it did come at the right time, she is more than aware that the art of being a good guest is
to know when to leave, and she has just done that at the right time.
“I wasn’t forced out of the music industry, but I am tired and getting old. And my family and
grandchildren need me. This will also give me an opportunity to pursue other business
interests. For example, I’ll continue with my presenting career on television. I also have a
studio where I’m producing music for up-and-coming artists.
“I am also involved in a number of non-profit organisations,” she said.
For her, she has just come to the end of the road, as far as music composition is concerned,
as such, she won’t be releasing any more albums, she believes she has done her part and
fought a good fight.
“I will be performing only at exclusive events. And I’ll use my skills and experience to teach
artists,” Malope said as a consolation to her fans she will be around to grace selected events
on request. Meanwhile, with regards to recognition, she had this to say; “Firstly, I don’t want
any posthumous award. If I am to be celebrated it must be now while I’m still alive.
“Secondly, once I’m dead, radio stations must not play my music unless they start playing it
now when I can still generate income from it. At my funeral I don’t want long speeches.
“Instead people must celebrate my life with music. I want people to remember me as bubbly
as I am.
“Once I’m gone I’m gone. I would have lived my life to the fullest. Therefore I’d expect people
to live theirs to the fullest. I have had my ups and downs and I’ve survived. I have won many
awards, including lifetime awards. To date I have 21 Samas, so what more can I ask for?”
Rebecca kick started her musical career more than 30 years ago when she entered the Shell
Road to Fame competition, which catapulted her to stardom. She gave credit, and attributed
her success to people like Sizwe Zako, Peter Tladi and Clive Hardwick.
“They moulded me into a great gospel artist. At all times they were behind me, ensuring I get
bookings, arranging interviews with the media and marketing me. I will forever be grateful to
them. I am also grateful to my fans who stood resolute behind my work and music,” added
Her latest offering is a token of appreciation for her fans for their unwavering support and
loyalty over the years spanning more than three decades.
“This is my tribute to my fans. I decided to feature other artists, including Lebo Sekgobela,
Zaza Mokhethi, Dumi Mkokstad, Percy Ingle and others. The album has 16 songs and some
of those songs were written by other artists.
“This is my way of also saying thank you to my colleagues, music producers, my team and
everyone who was part of my music journey. The Lord has been good to me,” she told the
However, her retirement has come as a shock for many of her fans, whom because of the
energy she is still exhibiting could not have expected her to hang the mic, with no signs of
When she announced her retirement at a press briefing, held at La Vita at The Oceanic
Hotel in Durban, it came as a surprise, even for other music professionals.
Even Lindelani Mkhize, founder and music producer of Joyous Celebration, couldn’t see it
coming. Was at pains to accept the SA gospel legend is indeed hanging the microphone,
and urged her to reconsider the move saying:
“She must think twice about her decision. I say this because our government and artists still
need her. Without education, she managed to create and sustain her brand. She needs to
learn from Miriam Makeba that in this industry you don’t retire. Not retiring doesn’t mean you
are desperate for a job. This is a calling.”
Many other artists gave solidarity sentiments; fellow gospel artist Andile KaMajola said
Rebecca deserves a great goodbye; “Rebecca’s exit is like the closure of a big institution.
She was an all-rounder, and she remains a symbol of music excellence in the gospel
Dumi Mkokstad, who featured on Rebecca’s last album, said she had been his role model
and added that it was an honour for him to work with Malope. He went as far as writing a
song (Izulu Lingibhekile) as a tribute to her.
Even her music producer, Percy Ingle, was not spared from the disbelief. He said he was
surprised and taken unaware by Rebecca’s retirement and will remain indebted to her. “She
took me from the streets when I had no home and introduced me to the professional world of music. I’ve worked with top gospel artists in South Africa through her and I thank her for
that,” he said.