The tragedy of Jub Jub
As judgment dawned on the once enviable star, Percy Mabandu and Lesley Mofokeng examine the fame, fortune and fate of child star Molemo ‘Jub Jub’ Maarohanye
When Jub Jub took those short calculated strides into Court 6 of the Protea Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning, fully decked in a stylish black suit and a crisp white shirt, he was Oscar-carpet photo ready. He looked every bit the music and movie star he is.
Only, there were no adoring stares and sighs from swooning fans, but a pack of photographers eager to document his every step.
Judgment day begins.
At 9am, Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi combs through the evidence presented in court since the trial began in 2010. By the end of the court hours at 4.30pm, you could hear the murmurs professing his doom.
It’s just as American novelist F Scott Fitzgerald wrote all those years ago: “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
His words ring true in this age of spectacular child celebrities and their troubled lives. Our world is littered with child superstars who rise to the zenith of fame and fortune only to find themselves crumbling to a tragic end.
Jub Jub (slang for marshmallow) was the child star with the proverbial twinkle in his eye.
He charmed the hearts of many fans as a cute nine-year-old with chubby cheeks and pouty lips in an Inkomazi TV commercial.
That was in the early 1990s and he never lost his appeal as his grew into a teenage TV presenter on M-Net’s KTV.
He would join Jam Alley on SABC1 and then Channel O.
The adorable son of the controversial Mama Jackey, the woman who stood accused of fraud while running a rehabilitation centre and school in Soweto, Jub Jub’s life was charmed. He received a scholarship at the renowned Fame School – LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York City – where he completed his high school.
He doubled up his shine with a career in music and acting in local films such as Hijack Stories.
Then came a glittering music career in which the three successful albums – The Rare Breed, My Shine and Fresh Air – mastered an infectious blend of hip-hop, kwaito and gospel.
Just before his fortunes took a dive, Jub Jub was nominated for a Crown Gospel Music Award for Ndikhokhele and had participated on M-Net’s Survivor South Africa: Santa Carolina.
Then, on a fateful March afternoon two years ago, South Africans gasped at the news that the hip-hop gospel star had ploughed into a group of school children in a drag race gone wrong on Mdlalose Street, Protea North, killing four boy and seriously injuring two.
He and his race mate, Themba Tshabalala were charged with murder, reckless or negligent driving, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
There was a collective national mourning, and an outpouring of grief and outrage, and celebrities offered vox pops on the dangers of “drugs in the industry”.
Says an industry source who wants to remain anonymous: “Back in the days of Simunye Grooves, when a host of young rising stars were presenters and thought themselves invincible, life was about parties, booze and drugs – and Jub Jub was known as the go-to guy. Where Jub Jub was, that’s where the party was at.”
As he watched his star sink, Jub Jub found support from unusual quarters.
On the day Julius Malema was convicted of hate speech in absentia by the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court, Juju paid Jub Jub a visit behind bars. It was comically reported that they shared a Nando’s chicken meal.
His fire-brand girlfriend, singer Kelly Khumalo, stood by him too. In court, they looked like Soweto’s own Bonnie and Clyde.
It was a spectacle the besieged star had come to master. Khumalo and Jub Jub’s tumultuous romance ended with accusations of drug addiction and physical abuse. They have a son named Christian.
So where has the love gone?
The saga only proved that old dictum, that a man’s reach always exceeds his grasp. Has the sweet Jub Jub finally clutched at the limits of his reach? Only time will tell.
Jub Jub found himself in the harsh receiving end of public rejection.
“When the accident took place a part of me died,” he would tell the court late in 2011. It’s a line the embattled star told Lerato Kganyago, the Soweto TV talk show host. He was offering a public apology that many felt was a little too late.
His manager, Jeff Marhanele, told the Sowetan newspaper that his client’s career had been halted since the accident. “He’s not done any music. He hasn’t done a gig or performed since.”
Kabelo Segwai helped launch Jub Jub’s music career when they met in 2006. He describes him as “selfless, hard-working, fun-loving and very spiritual”.
He says Jub Jub was a committed Seventh-Day Adventist churchgoer. “In everything he did, he made sure that he didn’t miss church. He was a good kid who always contributed to people’s lives. He took his fan mail seriously and would spend hours going through the correspondence.”
Segwai says he last saw Jub Jub last weekend. They watched rugby, “but he wasn’t there”, referring to Jub Jub’s absent mind and aloofness, adding that he was visibly stressed and often shed a tear.
On the subject of drugs that permeate the music industry, Segwai says he never suspected that Jub Jub took the stuff.
These days the once cool celebrity who attracted hangers-on now spends his time with a friend known only as Pablo, who has proven to be a strong support system.
The New York-educated celebrity’s dress sense became a central noticeable element of his demeanour in court. But this week as he stood in the dock listening to his fate, the sharp suits and designer shades were the only noticeable remnants of his once glittery Hollywood-style life.
– Additional reporting Babalwa Shota