Mhlongo will be remembered as an entertainer and actress. Born in Durban’s Inanda township 62 years ago, Mhlongo was not only a maskandi singer but collaborated on other genres such as mbaqanga, marabi, traditional Zulu, reggae, gospel, opera, jazz, funk, rock and wes­t African music.

Her long-time friend, Nise Malange, who is the director of the Bat Centre, said although she had been suffering for a while, “it is hard and really painful to accept that she is gone. I will remember the times when I cried, laughed, danced and sang with her.

“Through her music, she carried the pain of the country. She was a fun, loving person.”

Malange said it is a pity that sometimes the importance of artists is only realised when it is too late.

“It is important to pay tribute while they are still alive. It saddens us that she died before we had unveiled her monument at the Bat Centre, as we had hoped that she would have at least had placed her hand on it.”

Her manager Neil Comfort, who is also the co-owner of the Rainbow Restaurant and Jazz Club in Pinetown, said Mhlongo was a wonderful human being who will be remembered as one of the great singers of our time.

Her friend, brother and colleague, Madala Kunene, said her death was a huge loss to him, as they grew up together.

“I am surrounded by a dark cloud as I have lost a sister. I will remember and treasure everything about her. She was an entertainer who was jocular at the same time.”

Sapa yesterday reported that President Jacob Zuma also paid homage to Busi Mhlongo, calling her the “Queen of Maskandi music”.

“She inspired the nation and let the world know of South Africa’s quest for freedom,” Zuma said in a statement yesterday.