Weekdays on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 19:30
Weekdays on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 19:30

Farewell, Oom Okkie Ferreira

Actress Hannelie Warren pays tribute to her TV hubby, Ben Kruger, in hospital soapie Binnelanders on kykNET (DStv channel 144)

There is something special about a soapie actor who entertains us every weekday night in our own living rooms with their dramatic, funny, and sometimes laid-back storylines that can also be upsetting at times, then make us laugh out loud the next! They play these roles for so long and so well, that many of us get attached to them, and forget they are only acting out a fictional character.

The legendary singer, writer, director and veteran actor Ben Kruger (64) was such an actor, whose character, Oom Okkie Ferreira, on Afrikaans soapie Binnelanders, weekdays on kykNET (DStv channel 144), had a special place in our hearts. His previous acting roles went hand-in-hand with this one to secure him a firm place in our living rooms. We in the TV world, as well as his many fans, were left shattered by the news of his death due to COVID-19 complications.

A man of steel

No one felt Ben’s loss more that those closest to him – his family, friends and his TV family, the colleagues at Binnelanders. Hannelie Warren, who has played Ben’s TV wife, Ilse Ferreira, for the past 8 years, couldn’t hold back the tears when she spoke about Ben this week.

“It was just so unexpected and sudden,” Hannelie says. “I woke up this morning and the tears kept falling. Besides my own husband, there was no one whom I spend so much time with, other than Ben. He was my friend, confidant and above all, a man of steel – there was noting that could get him down.”


Hannelie Warren plays the role of Okkie’s loving wife, Ilse Ferreira.

A potjie master

“I feel like a work widow,” Hannelie says. “My heart goes out to Ben’s own wife, and I can’t even image the pain she is going through, this is just so unfair.”

Hannelie says that on set, her, Ben and actor Paul Lückhoff, who plays Oom Wimpie, Okkie’s best mate in Binnelanders, never had a dull moment. “We always laughed, made jokes and had fun, and whenever Ben had a chance, he wanted to share a recipe with me, even though I am far from a good cook,” she says.

Ben was also a potjie master and regularly shared his recipes on radio to the public. He believed that the secret to a good potjie has to do with the temperature of the fire underneath the pot – if you get that right, your potjie will be perfect.


Louis (front) takes a photo of Oom Wimpie, Okkie and Ilse.

A tribute to Ben

A mountain of tributes have poured in for Ben since his death, including that of Binnelanders cast members and producer Elsje Stark, who says: “We will always remember Ben for his professionalism, dignity and sense of humour.” kykNET’s Channel Head, Karen Meiring, says Ben was much loved, and his death is an enormous hit to the industry.

Hannelie’s words are especially touching: “Ben, you were such a big part of my life. You supported me in the good and bad times, and gave me advice on life and especially how to raise boys, because you have 3 of your own. There will never be enough words to tell you how much that meant to me. I miss you my friend, and there will never be someone who can take your place.”

On screen until August

Because Binnelanders is filmed 3 months in advance, viewers will still see Ben acting out his character Okkie’s storylines until August this year. The writers at Binnelanders now have the task of writing an exit story for Okkie, and we wish them the best in this difficult time.

“It’s going to be hard when that time comes to say goodbye on screen,” says Hannelie. “Ben also had such a strong friendship with the writers at Binnelanders, and I know they also feel his loss deeply.”

Farewell, Oom Okkie Ferreira – the halls of Binneland clinic will be empty without you. You were a true gentleman.

Binnelanders S10 weekdays on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 19:30 and on Catch Up

NB! kykNET (DStv channel 144) is available on DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus. To get DStv or to upgrade your package, click here

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