Koyo Bala (Pic: Facebook)
Singer and socialite Koyo Bala, best known for his part in the groundbreaking openly gay Afro-pop group 3Sum, has passed away.
The much loved Bala, 37, reportedly lost the battle with cancer at the Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town on Monday.
Housemate, friend and designer Ephraim “Ephymol” Molingoana told Sowetan Live: “We are devastated and in state of disbelief.”
Not only was Bala a proudly gay man and role model but he also helped destigmatise living with HIV when he revealed his status in a 2011 interview with Drum magazine.
“I am HIV-positive, and as a celebrity and someone who is openly gay, it is important to come out. I want to use my bubbly personality to help those struggling to come to terms with their status and instil a sense of hope,” he said.
He later spoke to the Sunday Sun about the interview: “I am free. Hopefully other celebrities will do the same. I am not dying.”
It is believed that Bala was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and that it returned last year.
“I was told I must take six months off my schedule to get better. It is going to be a difficult few months, but I know I can beat this cancer,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Sun in 2015.
He was seen out and about as recently as just over a week ago at the Metro FM Awards.
3Sum in their heydey
Local celebrities, including Somizi Mhlongo, Kuli Roberts and Bonang Matheba and many more, reacted on social media with grief and shock at his death.
Bala is the second member of 3Sum to tragically pass away. Fellow singer Jeff Moyo died in 2010 at the age of 33. Amstel Maboa is the only surviving member of the group.
Maboa told Destiny: “There are so many amazing moments we’ve shared, I don’t even know where to start. Koyo was always happy, full of life and a true solider. He was a hustler, he always made things happen.
“I’m grateful for the last days he was with me. We went to the Metro FM Awards together last weekend, and I’m telling you, he was energetic, the life of the party and like a comedian,” Maboa said.
3Sum has the honour of being the first openly gay music group in South Africa.