Born: 15 April 1950, District Six, Cape Town
Died: 16 December 2006 (aged 56), Athlone, Cape Town
Taliep Petersen was a legendary South African singer, composer and director of a number of popular musicals. He was born in the multi-cultural neighbourhood of Cape Town, District Six and is famously known for his international productions of District Six: The Musical and Kat and the Kings, which he penned with musician David Kramer and together they won an Olivier Award.
Wives and Children
Taliep Petersen and Madeegha Anders fell in love when she was cast in his award-winning District Six: The Musical. Madeegha would later on retire from dancing, convert to Islam and get married to the love of her life.
The newly married couple performed a pilgrimage to Mecca together and then had four children, three girls and one boy. Their children are daughters Jawaahier Petersen, Aeesha, Fatiema and son Ashur Petersen.
Taliep’s career then started skyrocketing but the marriage wasn’t doing well at all.
Taliep Petersen’s father, Mogamat Ladien said his son struggled to make the marriage work.
“He told me, ‘Boeja, I’ve been trying for eight years with her – to bring her right.’ But then he saw that it was not going to work out and he left her.”
Ladien said he did not get along with Madeegha Anders, his first daughter-in-law.
“Madeegha and I didn’t have a good understanding. When I visited she would open the door, wouldn’t greet and simply walk to the kitchen. This upset Taliep. He told her once: ‘You are not going to bring my father down to your level. Either you go up to his level but my father will never go down to yours.'”
The couple’s marriage failed and they ended up splitting.
After Taliep and Madeegha Anders got divorced, Madeegha’s best friend Najwa Dirk was waiting in the wings as she too admired Taliep. Najwa and Petersen got married and later had a daughter named Zaynab Petersen.
Petersen’s father, Mogamat Ladien, said Najwa and Madeegha were good friends, but “Najwa would come and visit [Taliep] especially in the morning, without Madeegha knowing Najwa was interfering in her marriage”.
Petersen’s father added: “I liked Najwa. She was very nice and would always have a bright smile and would hug me when she saw me.”
But Ladien’s opinion of Najwa first changed in April of 2006 when she stabbed Taliep in the neck. “One night while he [Taliep] was sleeping she was still wandering around in the house. When he woke blood was oozing from his neck, and he still said to me: ‘Boeja, I thought I was going to die.’
“He went to hospital but not to the police station. I don’t know why, but he decided to move on.”
Ladien said Taliep’s four eldest children were so afraid of their stepmother that they moved out of the house . Understandably, Petersen, too, was afraid of his wife.
“He told me he didn’t want to pray with her because she has to stand behind him when they pray and he was afraid that she might hurt him again,” said Ladien. “He also moved to another room.”
According to Ladien, Petersen also had problems with his in-laws (Najwa’s family), who he often had to bail out financially.
Petersen first sang publicly aged six, at the Coon Carnival. His first theatre performance was a part in a 1974 production of Hair, followed by Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. After a period studying classical guitar at the Fitznell School of Music in England, he wrote his first revue, called Carnival a la District Six, based on the New Year celebrations in Cape Town.
In the 1980s, Petersen formed a band, called Sapphyre, that played interpretations of traditional Cape Malay songs. In 1986 he and David Kramer collaborated on the first of a number of musicals together, District Six: The Musical, exploring the culture and history of the Coloured community in Cape Town.
Taliep and David Kramer further went on to collaborate on Poison (1992), Fairyland (1992), Crooners (1992), Kat and the Kings (1995), Klop Klop (1996) and Spice Drum Beat: Ghoema. A number of these toured internationally; Kat and the Kings played in London’s West End, Germany, Netherlands, Las Vegas and further played more than 150 times on Broadway New York. Ghoema had opened in London’s Tricycle Theatre shortly before Petersen’s death. Fairyland won an FNB Vita award for best musical, Taliep and Kramer won the Best New Musical Olivier Award for Kat and the Kings in 1999, while its cast collectively won the award for Best Actor.
In 2001, Taliep presented a television series about District Six called O’se Distrik Ses and he also featured on South African reality talent show Joltyd on kykNET. In 2002, he created a sitcom called Alie Barber. In 2005, a second season of Alie Barber was shown and Petersen released songs from the series on the 2006 album Deur Dik en Dun, his first in Afrikaans.
Shortly before the start of Idols Afrikaans season 1 on which he was a judge, Petersen and his family received death threats but he decided to proceed with the show until it ended in August of 2006.
Petersen was shot dead at his home on Saturday 16 December 2006, he was found in a pool of blood with a bullet wound in his neck. It was also revealed that Najwa had actually stabbed Taliep in the neck back in April of 2006, months before he was eventually killed. Taliep and Najwa started sleeping in separate bedrooms after this attack.
But before this absurd and bloody incident unfolded, Taliep Petersen had been at his wits’ end with his wife Najwa. He had, according to family members, wanted to divorce her as he found the marriage “10 times worse” than his previous marriage, which had itself been beset with problems.
Petersen’s Muslim burial service took place on Sunday 17 December 2006 at a mosque in St Athens way Athlone.
On Monday 18 June 2007, Najwa Petersen, the wife of Taliep Petersen, was arrested at their family home in connection with the murder. Together with three men, Abdoer Raasiet Emjedi, Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Tion Snyders, she was charged with his “planned and/or premeditated” murder.
After thorough investigations, it was uncovered that Taliep’s wife Najwa paid R150,000 to have Petersen murdered, giving each of her co-accused R50,000. It was also discovered that the three men, Najwa’s co-accused were all employed by Dirk Fruit, the Namibian import and export company owned by Najwa’s family.
Initially Najwa had claimed that on the night of Taliep’s death, she had taken heavy medication and had gone to sleep. But cellphone evidence, presented by Peter Schmitz of the CSIR, showed that she had moved between rooms in the house. Different cellphone towers in the area picked up her movements as she made calls. The evidence also tracked calls made between Najwa and her co-accused. It was exactly what the State needed to back up the testimony of Fahiem Hendricks, who had helped organise the hit and who turned State witness in the trial.
Police’s investigating officer Captain Joe Dryden gave more evidence in the Wynberg Regional Court, he described the events on the night of the killing as related in statements by the other accused, Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Snyders.
Captain Joe Dryden said Najwa had let Waheed Hassen and Jefferson Snyders into the house and the men had tiptoed upstairs to the sitting room, where Taliep was watching cricket on TV. The men grabbed Taliep, who shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is great)”, before Najwa came into the room.
Dryden said: “She then hugged Mr Petersen around the neck while Hassen and Snyders held him.”
“The men forced Taliep to the ground, pushed a glove into his mouth and tied his hands behind his back. Najwa helped tie his feet together with a table cloth and the electric cord of a hair-curling iron,” Captain Dryden said.
“She then caressed her husband’s face as he lay on the floor. Hassen said he found this very strange.”
The detective quoted Waheed Hassen as saying that Najwa repeatedly asked: “When are you going to finish him?”
Waheed Hassen then took a pillow from a bedroom and folded it over the gun, which Najwa took from him, Dryden told the court.
“She then shot the deceased,” he said, pointing to his neck to indicate where the 9mm bullet hit the musician on the night of December 16.
The court also heard that Najwa was the beneficiary of a R6 million life insurance policy in Taliep Petersen’s name.
Captain Joe Dryden said Najwa’s cellphone records had led the police to a man called Fahiem Hendricks, who allegedly found the three hitmen for her. Judge Siraj Desai ruled that the cellphone records created “compelling corroboration of the State’s case”.
Najwa Petersen was convicted in the Cape Town High Court on Tuesday 2 December 2008 along with two hitmen, Abdoer Emjedi and Waheed Hassen but Najwa had tried to bribe one of her co-accussed not to implicate her in the killing. All three were found “guilty of murder and of robbery with aggravating circumstances”. Judge Siraj Desai postponed the matter to Wednesday 4 February 2009 for sentencing procedures, at which Najwa Peterson was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Abdoer Emjedi, who was never at the murder scene but hired the hitmen, was sentenced to 24 years. Waheed Hassen, also charged with the possession of an illegal firearm, was sentenced to 25 years. The fourth accused, Jefferson Snyders, was sentenced to 7 years for robbery, 3 of which were suspended. Judge Desai found that Snyders was never involved in planning the murder and he “reluctantly” gave him a jail term because he was a first-time offender and the first to show remorse.
Judge Siraj Desai described Najwa Petersen as “inhumane” and labelled the murder an “act of sheer savagery”. He said the extent of Najwa’s inhumanity was illustrated by the fact that she embraced her husband moments before he was shot in the neck. The judge further said that Najwa never showed emotion or remorse during the trial. She had, instead, tried to portray herself as an “unstable and timid” woman.
Judge Siraj Desai’s sentence was greeted by applause and wailing from the public gallery, where an unidentified woman sobbed inconsolably. Taliep’s brother, Igshaan, told reporters outside the court: “I am relieved that it’s finished.”
Taliep Petersen’s murder was chronicled in the M-Net docu-drama series Crimes Uncovered, in 2012, which detailed how Najwa conspired to have him killed after she found out he was planning to leave her.
In November 2019, Najwa was moved from Worcester Female Prison to Pollsmoor Prison.
On Wednesday 11 December 2019, one of Taliep Petersen’s awards was stolen from his daughter’s home in Lansdowne, Cape Town. Taliep’s eldest daughter, Jawaahier Petersen revealed that thieves broke in during load shedding and stole one of her father’s prized and historic awards, the Fleur Du Cap Award among other items.
The family only realised the award was missing two days later on Friday 13 December 2019 when they checked their home properly to see what was stolen. Jawaahier also said that the coin collection from currencies around the world, which her father used as a reminder of his travels, were stolen.