Izingane zoBaba is a South African mini-series adapted from King Lear by Portia Gumede and Thomas Hall as part of the SABC1 "Shakespeare in Mzansi" strand, a collection of mini-series which contemporise various works of Shakespeare into a South African context.
It is the second of four mini-series which aired on SABC1 on Tuesdays, from 11 March to 19 August, 2008. The others are Entabeni (Macbeth), uGugu no Andile (Romeo and Juliet) and Death of a Queen (also Macbeth).
Izingane zoBaba originally aired on SABC1 from 22 April to 27 May, 2008, on Tuesdays at 20h30, replacing Entabeni in the timeslot. New episodes broadcast weekly.
A rebroadcast of the series premiered on SABC1 on Wednesday 27 November 2013, at 20h30. New episodes broadcast weekly. There are six half-hour episodes in the series.
Izingane zoBaba is adapted from King Lear by writers Portia Gumede and Thomas Hall, and transposes the drama and intrigue of the original tale’s royal family to a modern business context in Kwazulu-Natal.
Set in world of the coal distribution industry of Richards Bay, Izingane zoBaba depicts the lives of two families torn apart by jealousy, greed and deception.
The Shakespearean themes of pride, betrayal, reconciliation and the descent into madness are brought to life in this dynamic modern setting.
When aging businessman, Nkwazi Nkosi, allows his family corporate empire to be filmed by a documentary crew from the news magazine programme Inside Access, he sets in motion a series of events which lead to the destruction of both his family and his business.
Announcing his wish to retire, Nkosi is faced with a difficult choice – picking his successor from his three daughters. This action brings family tensions and sibling rivalries to the surface, eventually resulting in heartbreak, tragedy and murder.
The cast is led by Ernest Ndlovu as the aging patriarch, Nkwazi Nkosi – a man who is now no longer the regal figure he once was.
Starring as Nkosi’s three daughters and potential heirs are Bongi Ndaba as Thembeka, Portia Gumede as Buhle and Lali Dangazele as Kholekile, who are soon pitted against each other in a battle for control of the company.
Magic Hlatswayo takes the role of Nkwazi’s oldest friend and Chief Financial Officer, Robert Luthuli. Buyile Mdladla and Fezile Mpela play Robert’s sons, Melusi and Eddie.
Mbali Ntuli appears as Barbara Mthembu – the reporter from Inside Access who is assigned to film the profile of the Nkosi family business and accidentally stumbles onto the story of a lifetime – a story which could cost her own life.
Hamilton Dlamini rounds out the cast as company janitor (a version of Shakespeare's "Fool") and Nkosi’s unlikely ally, Lucky.
Izingane zoBaba is directed by Tim Greene (Hard Copy, A Boy called Twist). The series is filmed by Director of Photography Natalie Haarhoff (Home Affairs), making use of techniques not usually associated with conventional South African drama - documentary footage, fly-on-the-wall hidden cameras and ‘recovered’ CCTV footage.
Izingane zoBaba is the first project from Paw Paw Films – a production company headed by producer Portia Gumede, with Creative Producer Roberta Durrant.
Nkwazi Nkosi is the Lear figure in this adaptation. He is the CEO of Nkosi Fuel Inc. The company is a key player in the distribution of coal to other parts of Africa.
It has the distinction of being a black-owned company that rose to prominence during the Apartheid regime. After the advent of democracy, the company was well positioned to be awarded key lucrative contracts.
The success of this company is due to Nkwazi’s drive, determination, courage, honesty and leadership – the attributes worthy of a king.
As a young man in Richard’s Bay, he began by collecting the loose coal that may have spilt from the loads leaving the country. Starting with one wheelbarrow, he sold the coal to the local community, saving his money until he could buy his own consignments.
With the help of his close friend and financial advisor, Robert Luthuli, Nkwazi became a key supplier for local homes, and as the money came in, he grew his distribution network.
His canny knowledge of his home and the people resulted in him being brought in by white-owned companies to help them facilitate their own distribution networks.
When offered to join them, he chose to retain his autonomy with his own company which expanded over the years.
Now in his twilight years, Nkwazi is tired and planning to retire from the company in all but name. He never had sons, only three daughters, none of whom married. His choice of succession is a complex one as he favours his youngest daughter.
Thus he devises a test – possibly informed by his reflective state, burgeoning sentimentality and a degree of vanity – to find out how much his daughter’s love him.
It is ironic that Nkwazi – a man who kept business and emotions separate – will initiate the collapse of his own empire because of an emotional response.
Nobuhle 'Buhle' Nkosi
Buhle is the eldest daughter – the Goneril of this tale. She is in her thirties - attractive, ambitious and committed to her father’s company, considering herself his likely successor.
Her role in the company is as chief of communications. She is the picture of a corporate executive – smart, well-groomed and immaculate.
Because of her role in communications, she sees herself as the literal face of the company and is active in the offices, never on the work floor.
She never took a husband in spite of her father’s encouragement. She used her dedication to the company as her excuse, but in truth she has yet to meet a man who fits her requirements in terms of what he can do for her – although she has a flirtatious relationship with Melusi (the Edmund character) which develops as he becomes integral to her plans.
Buhle’s beautiful face belies her deceptive, manipulative and ruthless nature. Her heart is made of hardened steel and venom runs through her blood. This is revealed in the course of the story.
Thembeka is the version of Lear’s daughter, Regan. Thembeka is only eighteen months younger than her sister, Buhle.
Where her sister got her father’s understanding of business, Thembeka got his tireless drive and focus on doing the hard work that needs to be done.
She has a prominent role in Operations – the day-to-day running of the company and dealing with workers and overseeing the physical realization of the work.
She is a very different physical type to her sister – larger in frame and severe in looks. She has a tough exterior but this doesn’t hide a soft interior.
Like her sister, she is ambitious and single-minded in her pursuit of what she thinks should be hers.
She feels she is more deserving of controlling the company because she has worked in the ‘trenches’ – her work ethic leads her to believe that this is the real work of value – not the corporate wheeling and dealing that goes on in boardrooms.
Her sense of entitlement leads to ruthless and cruel actions.
She too has never taken a husband, but there is more the sense that she has no use for men. She only turns her attentions to Melusi when his usefulness in her schemes becomes apparent.
After that, she opens her heart to him, complicating her relationship with Buhle.
Kholekile is our Cordelia. She has just turned 20 and is younger than her sisters by over a decade. She is the favoured daughter of her father and he is determined to see her marry well.
She is currently working for the company in the capacity of a PA. But she is merely biding her time, saving her money to go to university to study engineering. Her father offered to pay her fees but she insists on paying her own way.
He is hoping that her new skills will be put to use in the company, but she has more philanthropic intentions. She is a humanist, not dazzled by corporate trappings and fineries.
She would like to use her skills to help the community in Kwa-hlabisa and other surrounding areas of Richards Bay.
She is young and attractive, but she doesn’t lavish attention on her appearance, feeling that this would be a falsehood. She has no real bond to her older sisters due to the age difference but also because of their conflicting natures.
Her mother died when she was young and the sisters helped her father raise her but they were resentful and only her father ever treated her with affection and kindness.
Kholekile is perceptive and intuitive and is aware that her sisters’ facades hide ruthless ambition and a desire to get ahead at any cost. She has never had a shortage of male attention but questions men’s intentions who seem interested in her for her looks and her connections.
For now, she wants to concentrate on her studies but hopes to meet a man who wants her for love rather than expedience.
To facilitate streamlining our narrative structure while still emphasizing the theme of family relationships, Robert Luthuli serves as a composite of the characters of Kent and Gloucester.
He is Nkwazi’s oldest friend from childhood. When Nkwazi began his business, Robert assisted him, firstly out of a sense of loyalty to his friend, but, as the sideline grew into a viable enterprise, Robert’s shrewd business acumen was put to good use.
Robert is the chief financial officer of Nkosi Fuel, Inc. He has a head for figures and, as he needed to gain more specialized skills, Robert undertook to learn them or teach himself what he needed to know.
Robert married and had a son, Melusi. He also fathered an illegitimate son, Eddie. Both sons received their father’s business sense. It is a sad quirk of fate that Eddie is the favoured one, both in terms of ability and his father’s affections.
Robert is more perceptive of the rivalries and agendas between Nkwazi’s daughters than of Melusi’s resentment of Eddie.
Melusi 'Mel' Luthuli
Melusi is our adaptation’s version of Edmund. He is Robert Luthuli’s son and currently works in the payrolls and salaries department. He is anticipating taking over from his father as chief financial officer.
He is arrogant to the point that he does not recognize that he is not the best candidate for this job. Rather, it is his half-brother who is the more qualified and better suited.
Melusi has always tolerated his brother but has never failed to notice that Eddie is favoured by their father. Melusi burns with bitterness and resentment, but can hide this to be smooth and charming to further his own ends.
One of his less dubious skills is the ability to recognize what people need and, because he lacks scruples, he takes advantage of their desires.
He has always maintained an affable relationship with Nkwazi’s daughters, never knowing when he might need them.
Edward 'Eddie' Luthuli
Edward is the illegitimate son of Robert Luthuli. Eddie possesses a brilliant financial mind which has created many opportunities for him.
The company paid for him to do an MBA in New York. He is returning to start taking over the duties of Chief Financial Officer from his father – unbeknownst to his half-brother.
Eddie does not feel the same animosity towards Melusi that Melusi harbours for him. Eddie is young, bright, energetic and dynamic in business. His downfall perhaps is that he does not know people in the same way he knows numbers.
Eddie has no real sense of the darker nature of people and is naïve and quite gullible, never suspecting the worst about people – especially those close to him.
Lucky is a version of Shakespeare’s Clown. He is a janitor in the offices of Nkosi Fuel, Inc.
Over the years of his employment, he has struck up an informal friendship with Nkwazi and they always take a moment to greet each other and banter. Lucky is careful to only do this in private as he is certain to be rebuked if Buhle became aware of this interaction between her father and a person who she would perceive to be a ‘lowly’ worker.
Lucky is very perceptive and is the invisible figure in the offices who people never notice and are therefore careless about what they may say in front of him.
As a result, he becomes privy to many secrets and dangerous information. What he overhears allows him to play a pivotal role in the action, spurred on by his loyalty to the old CEO.
Barbara Mthembu is an on-screen investigative reporter for a show called Access News – similar in content and format to something like Special Assignment.
In this story, she serves the function of the Shakespearean Chorus – to set the scene, shift the scene, provide introductions and exposition and to further the narrative.
Barbara asks uncomfortable questions that highlight the show's themes and dilemmas. She also has a special relationship with Lucky, as the two look in from the outside.
SeasonsSeries exclusive to SABC1. Rebroadcast dates included.Season 1
Premiere: 22 April 2008 | Finale: 27 May 2008 | Tuesdays, 20h30
Premiere: 27 November 2013 | Finale: 1 January 2014 | Wednesdays, 20h30