henry cele

Late South African actor Henry ‘Black Cat’ Cele. Image: X @senamisomoyo/ SABC

‘The great Shaka Zulu’: What happened to Henry Cele?

Best known for his on-screen character of Shaka kaSenzangakhona on ‘Shaka Zulu’ – what happened to Henry ‘Black Cat’ Cele?

henry cele

Late South African actor Henry ‘Black Cat’ Cele. Image: X @senamisomoyo/ SABC

Henry Cele was a South African actor best known for his stage character of “Shaka kaSenzangakhona” in the stage production ‘Shaka.

He undoubtedly had his shot at fame when he reprised his character in the 1986 television miniseries ‘Shaka Zulu.


The celebrated South African actor is trending after one of his interviews resurfaced online, leaving many trying to connect the dots about what happened to him. Before his newfound fame on small screens, Cele was a footballer nicknamed “Black Cat” thanks to his prowess on goal.

Many find it puzzling that Henry Cele played for Aces United in the 1960s. Apart from Aces United, he also starred for Lamontiville Golden Arrows FC. In 1978, he retired from the game but later switched the floor to coaching until his untimely death.


Henry Cele starred in the stage production of Shaka, which ran for a year, and his flair saw the directors of ‘Shaka Zulu‘ inviting him to audition for the same role in a 10-hour miniseries Shaka Zulu.

In one of his interviews, Henry Cele revealed that 4 000 individuals auditioned for the job but failed. He auditioned last and landed the role. In one of the interviews, he said, “I was the last one and the chosen one.” No doubt his unmatched flair saw him winning big.

Against his on-screen character in the miniseries, Henry Cele bagged several lead roles in big-budget productions that include:

  • Blind Justice
  • Freedom Fighters
  • The Last Samurai
  • Killer Instinct
  • Sweating Bullets
  • The Ghost and the Darkness
  • Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior

With a career spanning years, he managed to star in over 15 films. Henry Cele also capped his career with awards, including the Golden Plums Award. Cele seemingly had his last dance on small screens in 2001 when he played a lead role in ‘Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior.


The seasoned actor tied the knot twice. His first marriage with Tozi Duma ended after six years — the two share four children. Henry Cele later found love in the arms of Jennifer Hollander.

Despite being among the most sought-after actors, Cele’s career took a nosedive, forcing him to retreat from his lush house in Glenmore and move to Kwamashu township.


Cele died in November 2007 at age 58. He was admitted to St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban. However, reports have it that he died “an angry man”.

He reportedly died an angry and violent man — chained to his hospital bed. Rumour mill has it that he became aggressive and violent, and this forced doctors to chain him on his bed. Reports have it that he was even isolated from other patients, and only close family members were allowed to visit him in the intensive care unit.