Saturday, January 31, 2015

BREAKING. SABC3's Top Billing presenter Simba Mhere (26) dead in shocking car accident, 'devastating loss' to SA TV industry.

Simba Mhere, Top Billing presenter on SABC3 is dead as the shocking news about his death this morning in a horrifying car crash on the N3 is sending shockwaves through South Africa's TV biz.

Simbarashe Mhere known as simply "Simba" was only 26.

Eight people died in the car crash in which Simba Mhere, the son of missionary parents, was killed on Saturday morning on the N3 near the Marlboro offramp. His father and a friend was with him in the car at the time of the accident during which another car crashed into his vehicle.

The driver who caused the crash will be charged with reckless driving according to the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

Simba Mhere was on his way to the Oliver Tambo International Airport to fly to Cape Town's J&B Met this afternoon. In 2013 Simba Mhere was voted most stylist man in South Africa, and in 2014 favourite TV presenter.

Several celebrities left, and several were no-shows at the 2015 J&B Met on Saturday afternoon as news quickly spread about Simba Mhere's death.

The Top Billing crew and presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee left the J&B Met after news about Simba Mhere's passing became known, where the atmosphere turned sombre and depressing.

"It is with awful shock and terrible pain that we reflect on the passing of our beloved Simba Mhere," says Top Billing, produced by Tswelopele Productions.

"Simba Mhere will forever be an irreplaceable member of the Top Billing family. May your soul rest in peace dear Simba. We all loved you and we are truly heartbroken".

"It is with great sadness that SABC3 received the news about the passing of Simba Mhere, presenter on SABC3's Top Billing and Presenter Search on 3," says the SABC in a statement.

"Our beloved colleague and friend passed away in a tragic car accident earlier today. Simba Mhere brought great character and charisma in everything he did and for that he will be sorely missed."

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, Simba Mhere's friends and associates, his fans, viewers of SABC3 and the rest of South Africa."

"We wish to plead with the public to give the family some privacy during this sad time. SABC3 will communicate all the relevant details in due course."

The longtime Top Billing presenter Janez Vermeiren who've worked with Simba Mhere tells TV with Thinus his death is "a devastating loss".

"For us to lose a human being of that caliber is devastating. I was standing in the shower after hearing the news and going through all of the conversations we've had over the years - his dreams and aspirations. He had so many big dreams and plans that's shattered now that he's in heaven".

"It's devastating to lose someone so nice. In this industry you get a lot of people who are nice to you in front of you but then not so nice when you're back is turned. Simba Mhere was nice 100% of the time. A devastating loss," says Janez Vermeiren.

The charismatic presenter was a TV natural and became a Top Billing presenter after winning the Top Billing Presenter Search in 2010 after he was chosen as the winner out of 5 000 contestants who entered.

Simba Mhere's untimely and shocking death comes ironically just two days after a Top Billing special episode was broadcast on Thursday night, and which will be repeated on Sunday on SABC3 at 12:30, in which both Simba Mhere and co-presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee (who won in 2012) both looked back and reflected on how the show has changed their lives.

Editor's note: I've met Simba Mhere just after he won and became a Top Billing presenter in 2010, and saw and ran into him several times since then. What I will never forget is a private off-the-record dinner I had with him at the Crystal Towers hotel in Cape Town in 2013.

With the notebook packed away, the wine and conversation flowed. We could all be just us. Not presenter. Not journalist covering television. He laughed with abandon.

He told things I will never share, about his experiences about the TV world and the TV business as someone who entered it and was amazed, shocked, horrified and dazzled by it every day and how he didn't take anything of it for granted. He loved Top Billing and he loved being a TV presenter and the doors it opened. May Simba Mhere rest in peace.