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Channel says the show aims to cater for other language groups

New Ndebele drama about power struggles showcases the lingo too

Veteran actor, Sipho Mbele had to dig deep to clinch the character of Hlangabeza, a devious royal, on Ndebele drama, Komkhulu.
Veteran actor, Sipho Mbele had to dig deep to clinch the character of Hlangabeza, a devious royal, on Ndebele drama, Komkhulu.
Image: Supplied

With their latest offering that aired on Sunday, Mzansi Magic has heeded the call to open up the industry with the debut of its very first IsiNdebele production titled Komkhulu.

Set in Mpumalanga’s countryside, the show follows the story of a chiefdom with a succession crisis and power struggles that result in a series of tragic events. 

On the decision to work with Rhythm World Productions to produce this show, Shirley Adonisi, director of local entertainment channels at M-Net, said it was purely based on diversifying the content on the platform. 

“Traditionally we’ve catered for our isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Setswana/Sesotho audiences, and the success and warm reception to those shows proved that our subscribers appreciate diverse content and storytelling,” she explained. 

“We are now working on expanding our range to cater for other language groups, starting with IsiNdebele. Creating more content that reflects the diversity of cultures and perspectives of our viewers is a priority for us. We want to ensure that our content is authentic and reflects the true culture and spirit of the communities within which we operate,” she added. 

Speaking to Sowetan, veteran actor Sipho Mbele who plays the lead role of Hlangabeza – a greedy village elder who is gunning for the chieftaincy – says that it’s important for Ndebele people to be represented on television. 

“It’s so important to have such a show on our screens because remember we [Ndebele people] are considered a minority. People love how we dress and they love our art but they don’t know how to speak the language and I feel like this show will teach people a lot about us. Much like Muvhango and how it made people aware of the Tshivenda culture, Komkhulu will do the same and our people will also feel respected. The show will showcase our language in a beautiful way,” he says. 

Being one of the artists who has advocated for the promotion of the IsiNdebele language on television alongside others such as Thando Mahlangu and James Sithole, Mbele says the government should also come to the party. 

“I believe our government should be involved and especially the province of Mpumalanga. We have Swati and Ndebele actors on the show and their support would be so great in creating jobs in addition to promoting the language,” he expresses. 

On why viewers should watch the show, the actor says the production is relatable. 

“People should follow the storyline because it’s not only about the chiefdom and the kingdom but it’s also about normal people’s lives. The characters are so different. There are those who gossip and are manipulative and those who go the extra mile to get whatever they want. The show has so many lessons in it and others will relate to the story. Plus, it showcases our beautiful culture,” he says. 

Having missed the first round of auditions, Mbele thought his chances for a role on the show were very slim. 

“I eventually auditioned for the role of Hlangabeza and though the rounds were hectic and I nearly gave up. 

Playing Hlangabeza was an exciting challenge for the actor who says he had to mentally prepare to play the devious character. 

“It was very difficult psychologically because I had to prepare to play this old man who is greedy and fights a lot. At some point I was also worried because they had to change my beard and make it black but overall, I really enjoyed this role,” he says before explaining how different it is from the roles he’s played before. 

“In this role specifically, I’m always angry and drunk and that’s not really like me. I’m used to playing a lawyer or an old man who is a con. So, this was really different from my other characters,” he shares. 

And while he’s excited for viewers to see him shine as Hlangabeza in Komkhulu, the actor has a lot more in store for his fans for the rest of the year. 

“I have a small role in the upcoming show, Nikiwe and I’m still on the Blackdoor. I’ve also just shot a movie for Netflix and I’m completing my fourth book.” 

In 2018, SABC 1 broke the ice for Ndebele with the drama series titled Ikani.


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