South African opera star SIPHIWO NTSHEBE has died at the age of 34 - just weeks before he was scheduled to sing at the opening ceremony of the soccer World Cup.
The singer was admitted to hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa last week (beg17May10) after falling sick with meningitis and he succumbed to the illness on Tuesday (25May10).
Ntshebe, who studied at London's Royal College of Music, performed extensively throughout Europe during his career and was due to release a new album next month (Jun10).
He had been hand-picked by former South African president Nelson Mandela to perform at the World Cup opening ceremony in Johannesburg on 11 June (10).
The boss of Ntshebe's Epic Records label, Nick Raphael, has paid tribute to the star, calling his death "a tragedy for all those who believe in the power of music" and adding: "He had a truly wondrous voice and his music was unique in its melodies and its messages of hope and compassion."
Lebo M, who is organising the opening ceremony for the upcoming soccer tournament, says, "(Ntshebe was) a true South Africa World Cup legacy, gone too soon. May his spirit lead us to 11 June 2010. May his soul rest in peace and may Siphiwo's spirit of hope centre us all."