Always Remembered 2023- AKA and the Path to Healing

The late emcee AKA (Kiernan Jarryd Forbes)

A note from the editor:

Some 206 Zulu readers will be familiar with our Always Remembered series, a tradition we carry each year where we take time to hold space for people within Hip Hop and its peripheral communities who passed on over the course of the preceding year. In the past, this remembrance has taken the form of an annual video episode of our Meeting of the Minds podcast. For 2024, we’ll be sharing these memories in a different way.

Over the course of this year, we’ll be sharing a written commemoration of some of these influential members of our greater community, one at a time. We know that the act of remembrance is a tremendous power we have to keep our predecessors and ancestors alive through our collective voice. In that grain, keep posted for our ongoing series of brief stories looking into the lives of some of the fascinating people that transcended their physical frames in the course of 2023. And if any of these individuals have impacted you in any way, remember, your retelling of these stories will keep them alive in perpetuity. This is Always Remembered…


Last year we remembered two artists that passed on from violence and suicide in South Africa’s Hip Hop community. This year, we’re remembering another victim of violence, the South African superstar emcee AKA (Kiernan Jarryd Forbes). AKA, the highest selling South African Hip Hop artist of all time, was ambushed and murdered while leaving a restaurant in Durban. He died on the scene. A close friend, Tebello Motsoane or “Tibz,” 41, who was with him at the time, was also killed.

AKA and Tibz’ killings, suspected of being a for-hire hit, shed light on a nation grappling with an escalating rate of violent crime, especially murder and attempted murder. The abolishment of Apartheid in South Africa and subsequent establishment of a democratic government in 1994 gave rise to a new period of relative prosperity and social calm, compared to the horrors of the previous regime. Between 1994 and 2012, the murder rate in the nation dropped by 55%.

Tragically, due to a complex myriad of issues including record rates of unemployment, social inequities, mass blackouts, and water outages, violent crimes in South Africa have climbed to a 20 year high. Between April 2022 and March 2023, over 27,000 people were murdered in South Africa. That’s roughly 80 murders committed every day. Several reports reference the specific problem of murder-for-hire in a nation continuing the process of economic and social reconstruction. post apartheid.

The conflict and violence that took AKA’s life were not foreign to him while he was alive. Spending his early years with his grandparents in the infamous Mitchells Plain, often cited as one of Cape Town’s most dangerous townships, he must have been aware of the nature of the world he was living in from a young age. He would also experience the world through other lenses, later moving back to live with his parents in Johannesburg and attending an exclusive Anglican college where he began his musical career as part of a Hip Hop band named Entity. The band would go on to win a prestigious KORA All Africa Music Award, the first in a line of achievements that would help AKA rise to prominence in the South African music scene.

A photo of the late fiancées AKA and his Anele “Nellie” Tembe shared by the artist on his Instagram (instagram/akaworldwide)

He would also find himself mired in controversy and a wide range of speculation of his own values and actions, such as when his 22-year-old fiancée Anele Tembe died after falling from the 10th floor of a hotel in Cape Town. He was also part of several public beefs with other artists that ranged from claims to be the greatest producer to conflicts over locals clashing with migrants in South Africa. Sufficient to say, AKA lived a life full of talent and potential in a world full of violence, which ensnared him in its web and ultimately led to an early transition from the physical world.

In facing the reality of growing violence, local activists in Cape Town, combat greater militarization of police forces in an area where only two out of ten murder cases (20.74%) are solved, according to the latest annual police report. Outspoken organizers for peace, and community organizations provide new resources as communities work towards healing, reform, and safety. The police may never identify AKA’s killers but we’ll remember his story and do our best to not repeat the tragedies within it.

We remember AKA and all victims of violence in the townships of South Africa.