The 66-year-old died in a Cape Town guesthouse on Monday.
She was filming Arendsvlei, a telenovela for kykNET, in Cape Town.
She is best known for her television roles on shows such as ‘Generations’, ‘7de Laan’ and ; Egoli’, as well as for playing Fiela in the film ‘Fiela se Kind’.
Fellow actor and friend Lizz Meiring says the havoc wrought on the sector by Covid-19 forced Surtie-Richards to cancel her medical aid.
“Millions of South Africans had to let go of their medical funds during the Covid-19 pandemic and Shaleen was also affected. She was a professional, so she was at Cape Town, and our mutual friend took her to the hospital as she was ill.
“The doctor wanted to book her into the hospital immediately but she couldn’t get help because she had no money.
Meiring adds: “I don’t see this as an indictment against government hospitals they are excellent and have people doing excellent work, but now we are sitting with a 66-year-old who has severe diabetes, lung problems and hospitals are overrun with Covid patients (and) now we are sitting with a woman who already has compromised immune system.”
Surtie-Richards is only one of a long list of prominent South Africans to die without much money to their name.
Meiring believes the situation could have been avoided if the amendment of the Performers Protection Amendment Bill was signed into law.
“She passed away like many other people in the industry with a traumatised budget. She suffered from financial difficulties because even today the Performers Protection Amendment Bill is not amended.
“We fought for South Africa to sign this bill, but President Cyril Ramaphosa has not signed yet. It has been four years, if she had received royalties she deserves she wouldn’t have been poor.
“In the rest of the world performers and industry workers are paid for their work when a work is rebroadcasted for the third time. They receive a third of their original fee.”