Ngqwele Dube, Sunday News Correspondent

LONG serving Iyasa member, Sibonisiwe Sithole (38) has died.

Sithole passed away at United Bulawayo Hospital this morning. Bonni, as she was affectionately known in the arts sector, was admitted yesterday at the hospital after falling ill.

Iyasa founder, Nkululeko Innocent Dube, said Sithole was one of the longest serving members of the acclaimed arts group having been part of the first five members he recruited to the group at Mpopoma High School.

“We took her to Mpilo Hospital yesterday (Wednesday) after falling ill where she was transferred to UBH for tests which had been scheduled for this morning but she passed on before they were conducted.  We are in deep shock particularly coming at a time when we are still mourning the passing on of Cal_Vin. It is really a sad week for the Bulawayo arts sector,” he said.

A post on Iyasa’s Facebook page announcing her death read, “She played a huge role to build this institution an inspiration to a number of our current crop of stars. Bonnie is part of the early 2000 crew that bought in hits and changed the game.”

Dube said Bonni was one of the first artists he recruited into the group and she remained with the group throughout her career.

“Her humility kept her in the game for this long. She was humble always willing to learn and ready to go the extra mile. She was passionate about her job. She was part of every tour that Iyasa embarked on and took on the role of grooming other artists who came through the group,” he said.

Fellow artist and former, Iyasa member, Silethemba Magonya said Bonni’s death was a blow for her personally and the arts sector has lost a dedicated practitioner.

“It’s a sad and tough day for all us, when I heard she was admitted my hope was that she would be out of hospital soon and it’s a big blow that she didn’t make it. She was more of a sister to me and I have known for more than 20 years. We used to be roommates whenever we went on tour with Iyasa. Bonni was a bubbly person easy to relate to as she was full of humour,” she said.

Magonya described Sithole as someone who was dedicated to her craft which is shown by the fact she is still with the group and one of the remaining veterans who is playing a role in grooming other up and coming artists.

Several artists took to Twitter and Facebook to pass their condolences and mourn Bonni.  Dube said burial arrangements will be announced in due course and mourners are gathered at number 371 Matshobana, Bulawayo.