Zabalaza is a South African television soap opera created by Portia Gumede and Lebone Maema and produced by Urban Brew Studios as an addition to the "Lokshin" stable of films and television series which follows the Cele family from Soweto who seemingly have it all only for secrets to emerge, promises to be broken and for the family members to turn on one another for personal gain.
The series is in vernacular Nguni languages with the inclusion of English and English subtitles.
Zabalaza - which means struggle; striving towards success; hustling towards a content life - is set in Dube, Soweto, the home of Joseph "Jazzman" Cele, the patriarch of the Cele family, his wife Gasta and their children.
This typical family next door seems to have it all, but appearances can be deceiving. As the story unfolds, the Cele family secrets start to unravel, promises are broken and it's only a matter of time before the Celes turn against each other for selfish gain.
Seputla Sebogodi takes the lead as Jazzman Cele, with Baby Cele by his side as Gasta, the first lady of the Cele household. Other well-known actors include Zandile Msutwana, Manaka Ranaka, Mbali Ntuli, Thami Afrika, Matli Mohapeloa and Khanya Mkhangisa, among others.
A surprise addition to the cast is acclaimed soul artist Kabomo, who portrays Jazzman's accountant, Herbert.
The main difference between a Lokshin Soap format and other soaps is the township backdrop, which doesn't only refer to location, but to a way of life.
Zabalaza follows the successful footsteps of the Lokshin Bioskop series which demonstrates the expansion of this popular genre in South Africa.
Zabalaza is recorded in studio with set design that is a true reflection of the reality of township life. Though the characters face countless hardships and lows, they are proud to be part of the township community and they see their home as a place to empower.
A key plotline is that of the Cele matriarch Gasta and her rise from a silent wife living in the shadow of her rich husband, to one of the most powerful businesswomen in her community.
Zabalaza radically changed existing storylines towards the end of Season 2, starting with Season 2, Episode 172 (Episode 380 in the series, entitled "Fresh Starts") on Thursday 26 February 2015, at 21h00. Although the name of the show remained the same, in promotional materials it was referred to as "Zabalaza: A New World".
Set after the Morapamas experienced an unforeseen and dramatic rupture that left the legacy of Joseph "Jazzman" Morapama in tatters. The family factory – which was at the heart of Zabalaza's narrative - was destroyed in a fire, setting the scene for a completely new storyline with a new cast.
This new era of Zabalaza sees the show's characters step into an urban milieu that has all the ingredients of a 21st century soapie – a tangle of sex, drugs, egos, back-stabbing and sometimes lethal ambition.
Now shrugged free of the legacy of the old, a great deal of Zabalaza's action takes place in the Braamfontein offices of an events management company that has its eyes on making it to the top of a hotly contested industry.
With two company directors, two employees and a bevy of interns and freelancers, Slick Vic Media has a client list that is deeply impressive – but that also features some of Johannesburg's less salubrious characters.
Heading the charge towards glitz and glory is Sydney Lwana, played by Zolisa Xaluva. Sydney is Slick Vic Media's MD, who fancies himself as a citizen of the world but who harbours dark desires that would create a rift between him and his creative director, Victor Ndou.
Perpetually single and always a player, Victor is played by Bohang Moeko (a previous Mr South Africa finalist). Only Victor's mother, Victoria, a deal-maker in the mining and media industries, holds much sway over Slick Vic Media's Creative Director. Sharp-witted – and even sharper-tongued – Victoria is played by Rosie Motene.
Other new characters to join Zabalaza included: Tessa Twala as Lexi Thabane – a PR assistant who rapidly realises that she will never be treated as an equal at Slick Vic Media and so joins a rival company as she journeys to a position of power.
Angela Sithole plays Terry Ramotsetsi, a PR Guru and member of the now generation who finds love in all the wrong places.
The list of new cast members was completed by Tango Ncetezo in the role of Mapule Pule, a workaholic production manager who must try and reconcile the conflict between the values that she believes in and what is needed to succeed in the hard-bitten event industry.
The series was created by Portia Gumede and Lebone Maema. Writers include Dudu Mabaso and Cleo Rinkwest. Herbert Hadebe directed the pilot and other directors include Bromley Cawood and Magic A.M. Hlatshwayo.
Storyliners are Malusi Bengu and Chisanga Kabinga and other writers include Marc Bloom, Paul Crilley and Linda Bere. The creative director is Portia Gumede and the series producer is Burgert Muller. The executive producers are Lebone Maema and Danie Ferreira.