5 things to know about the late Kole Omotoso

From playing presidents to being loved by them, see some of the highlights that defined the work of the TV icon

20 July 2023 - 15:20 By Thango Ntwasa
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Bankole 'Kole' Omotoso.
Bankole 'Kole' Omotoso.
Image: Akin Omotoso/Instagram

Multitalented icon of South African television, Kole Omotoso, has died at age 80. Described as a born scholar in a family press release, Omotoso's son shared on Instagram that he “never missed an opportunity to engage in new topics. An astute sociopolitical critic, his criticality never got in the way of his belief in humanity.”

Omotoso became a household face thanks to his ads for Vodacom that featured the “yebo gogo” line.

However, his work and family have also paved the way for his ever-bright star.


Thanks to his Vodacom ads, Omotoso became widely known for the accompanying billboards and images of his “yebo gogo” adverts. These were so popular that Times Premium reports Nelson Mandela called him “the most photographed man in South Africa”.


While he may have left an impression on Mandela, he also made an impression of Thabo Mbeki. In the 1997 play and its subsequent TV movie starring Sidney Poitier, Omotoso took on the role of South Africa's second president — Mbeki.

Mandela And De Klerk Trailer, 1997. Director: Joseph Sargent Starring: Michael Caine, Sidney Poitier, Tina Lifford, , , Official ...


Omotoso has published 16 books, including the controversial Just Before Dawn. With elements of fiction and fact, the book garnered a lot of negative feedback, forcing him to leave Nigeria.


His children have also built legacies of their own. Omotoso's son, Akin, is most familiar to South African soap lovers for his role on Generations as Khaya. Akin has gone on to pave a path for himself behind the screen as a celebrated director. Yewande, on the other hand, has taken on her father's love for literature and has three award-winning novels.


Omotoso may have needed to move his life to South Africa, but that did not stop the passport stamps accumulating from his lecturing work.

He first lectured at the department of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Nigeria in 1972. He moved to the drama department at the University of Ife in 1978. From 1991 to 2000 he was an English professor at the University of the Western Cape, moving to Stellebosch's drama department from 2001 to 2003.

Omotoso also had visiting professorships at the University of Sterling, National University of Lesotho and the Talawa Theatre Company in London.

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