Home Sweet Home is a South African television sitcom created and developed by Short Ends Pictures and produced by Urban Brew Studios which explores the lives of a group of ragtag security guards working in a downtown office building and, through their eyes, the bustling life of the inner-city of Johannesburg.
The series unfolds in a 25-storey building on Bree Street; Debonair Heights - built in the seventies, abandoned in the eighties, and now on the verge of renaissance. It's a microcosm of the city – and if the city is a microcosm of Africa, then you do the math.
The tenants range from small businesses to brokerages, to driving schools, to sweat shops, to world renowned traditional healers who can cure problems at work or misunderstandings between friends.
The tenants, however, are the bit players in the drama.
The securities are the leads. Theirs is a relationship of forced confinement, of unnatural intimacy. They can only fill their time with each other. Although the security team probably numbers about a dozen, we hone in on only four characters – three securities and their boss. They are, of course, four very different personalities.
These core characters function as a transposed family – the pompous father, the responsible older sister, the lazy teenager, and the naughty little kid. The humour that is generated internally, within the dynamics of the "family", is character humour.
But this family does not live in isolation. It shares a building with hundreds of others. And this is where things get interesting.
The series explores the complex intersections of lives that unfold within the building, drawing inspiration from the intricate and dense plotting of such series as Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
In a single episode, each character has an independent narrative thread, which weaves into and out of the threads of her neighbours, tieing together at the end.
In the first episode of the series, Sporo is trying to wheel and deal in order to make a few extra bucks as usual, and he resorts to placing a bet on a soccer match and then trying to ensure the outcome through Dr Ogude, the building's traditional healer, but finding the Dr's required ingredients complicates the situation.
Rofhiwa, a country bumpkin, arrives in town and struggles to make sense of his new chaotic reality. He meets the cast of misfits and is not sure that he fits in, but can the building survive without him?
Sporo, the general, attempts to organize the annual fire drill and is undermined by the incompetence of his workforce. The fire drill is a public humiliation.
The Fallen Idol: Sporo "The Bicycle" Modadu
Played by: Phillip Hlatshwayo
This character is one of the main engines of comedy in this series.
Imagine Jabu Pule, five years from now, having expended all the good will of his friends and supporters, burnt all his bridges with professional football, and having to scrounge a living as a security – and you will have a pretty good idea of the character of the Fallen Idol.
He played for an un-named club in the late nineties, scored 17 goals in the 2000 season, but blew it all through his total lack of discipline, and personal volatility.
In one of the episodes we watch him watching a replay of his final match – a big derby showdown, in which he scores an incredible equaliser in the dying minutes, only to have the goal ruled off-side.
We listen to the commentator's shock as he describes our Fallen Idol arguing with the ref, then punching him out cold. His last, and fatal, transgression – that got him banned from the league (he maintains to this day that the goal was not offside).
The Fallen Idol is a character without a conscience, without a super-ego. He does as he pleases, with no regard for the consequences. If a parcel is delivered to the front desk for a tenant, he will, as a matter of course, open it.
He lies without compunction. He abuses his position for personal gain. And he does it with a smile. He has an overwhelming sense of entitlement. He feels robbed – of the money, the adulation, the women, the fame.
In his mind, it is only right that he should try and take these things back – forcibly, if necessary.
The question is, how do you integrate an amoral character such as his into a family sitcom? The answer is – by having justice always served.
The Fallen Idol's abuses always come back to him, with interest. If he steals a sandwich from a Mr. Delivery parcel, it'll be egg mayonnaise – which he's severely allergic to. If he insults a customer, it will turn out to be have been a superior. He is constantly defeated by his own actions.
But part of his character – perhaps the most endearing part – is manifested in his own incapacity to see these defeats for what they are. He simply treats them as minor set-backs, as temporary inconveniences. In that way, he never learns from his mistakes. In his mind, even in his greatest defeats, he is victorious.
He is, in other words, the very worst kind of security guard you can imagine running into.
Sporo, is from Mamelodi, he speaks Pretoria tsotsitaal, he loves to say Da man (that man). He always says "ukuvukakwe outie yintoencane" ("the ressurection of a fallen man is not as hard as some make it").
Sporo believes he will one day have his day in the sun. His other name is Ka Dong.
He loves to claim that he is waiting for Patrice Motsepe to phone him, so he can go and work in the development structures in Sundowns.
The Elder Sister: Princess
Played by: Lerato Mvelase
She is responsible, intelligent, attractive, ambitious, somewhat obsessive compulsive, and a bit of a snob. She's studying some kind of communications or public relations degree through correspondence.
Security work is ideal, because it allows her the time to study. She is the brains behind the operation. Towards visitors she is cool, collected – utterly professional.
She sees her work as purely temporary – in six to nine months she will have snapped up a job at an advertising or PR company, looking for a hot new undiscovered talent (or so she tells herself).
Where the Fallen Idol allows us to explore the humour of thwarted desire and latent aggression, the Elder Sister provides us with more cerebral delights – sarcasm, irony, and wit. She is utterly dismissive of the Fallen Idol, and will cut him down to size with the sharpest sarcasm.
But she is not an out-and-out bitch – the "mouthy woman" stereotype that so often crops up in sitcom. She has a nurturing relationship with the Country Boy and – most of the time anyway – puts up with the General's incompetence. She and the Country Boy provide the moral core of the series.
Princess is clever, but not books clever, she sometimes makes mistakes and these mistakes show off her academic challenges.
She is from Soweto, Mofolonorth, she speaks a mixture of Sotho and Zulu.
The Country Boy: Rofhiwa
Played by: Hebron Sigwavhulimu
He grew up in the small village of Mapate, near Thohoyandou. He's a country boy, through and through, a Venda/Shangaan hybrid. He lacks any ambition whatsoever.
He's been in Joburg the last five years or so, working in this building for the last three. He lives simply, within his means, and he's quite content with his job.
He's extremely good natured. He's not stupid – not quite. He's just irredeemably naïve, and has no sense of irony. He reads The Daily Sun, voraciously – and can't quite deduce fact from fiction. So when he reads of the evil pig that is terrorizing a neighbourhood next door to his, he gets genuinely nervous.
The main reason he came to Joburg, and the reason he doesn't go home, is that he is terrified of his mother. She is a real matriarch, a not insignificant member of the local royalty, a councilor on the local council, and a large and powerful woman.
She is forever calling him up and haranguing him – for not attending Sunday service, for not sending more money home, for not visiting; but mostly, for not making more of his life.
He probably has a very successful brother studying law on a bursary at UniVen. He is a little bit in love with the Elder Sister character, but he's a little bit in love with all women he meets.
He's full of stories of Venda country life – the crocodiles, the monkeys that steal mealies off their land, the witches and skeletons that roam his countryside. His plan is to save up enough money to build his own little home back home, and get married.
The humour his character generates is the humour of children – the humour of innocence and incomprehension.
Rofhiwa speaks Pedi and Venda, but he is Venda, he is clever in a traditional way, but not town clever, he is definitely not stupid, the thing is that his values that he was taught back at home and the ways of Jozi don't mix.
All he knows as values goes, he was taught by his strict grandmother, who he is scared of, he is scared of her, you would think she is the next room.
He is trapped in this building because he must come back as a successful young man, not a failure.
The General: Bhekumuzinsizwe Letswalo
Played by: Sello Sebotsane
The General is ex-MK. He trained in the seventies in Tanzania with some of the big struggle names, but since then he's been wandering in the wilderness.
His problem is he's completely incompetent. It's only thanks to the Elder Sister that he's been able to keep things together. He watches his former Comrades rise in the corporate and political ranks, whilst he remains firmly on ground floor.
He's disappointed, he's dissatisfied, he's sometimes bitter. He lives in the past, and regales his subordinates with his collection of "struggle tales" – the time Chris Hani and him got stuck up a tree together, the time he and Cyril Ramaphosa had to share a toothbrush. He talks endlessly about himself, and never listens.
He speaks in a military idiom – he refers to his securities as "soldiers", or "comrades", and tries to organise military type operations, replete with elaborate plans, blue prints and code names.
He doesn't have a hell of a lot to do, and dreams up these schemes largely to fill the time. His office is decorated with keepsakes from his struggle days – him posing with struggle luminaries wearing military fatigues, medals for bravery, yellowing newspaper clippings, etc.
His walls are covered with blue-prints of the building, with escape routes and weak points in the defence perimeter clearly marked. He makes excessive use of the walkey-talkey system to communicate with his troops: "Anything to report in the lobby, soldier? Over."
He devises elaborate record keeping schemes. He is constantly updating and revising the paper work system, making everyone's life more difficult. His subordinates find him a bore.
He is more than any of the others a sad character – lonely and unfulfilled. He is full of regret. Nobody ever shows outright disrespect – because he does, after all, have the power to fire and hire.
The humour that his character generates is the humour of dramatic irony. He is the only person who doesn't realise what a fool he is. Everyone sniggers behind his back, and makes fun of him. He is the great tragic figure of the series.
The General speaks Pedi, is from Butokwa, and loves to say "Wa Ra". He listens very little; he has a tendency of jumping into a conversation that concerns him, before he even asks what are you at his office for.
The Powerful Matriarch: Ousie Girlie
Played by: Pascaline Phale
Ousie Girlie was born and bred in Johannesburg and has seen the city evolve - she lived in Hillbrow during the crazy 80's. She is the original mshoza, she wears phenduka skirts and Levinsons shirts.
Looking at her, you wouldn't want to cross her. She is living with her grandchild, since the mother of the child passed away due to HIV. The grandson calls her mama and not gogo, the boy is a bit of a genius. The boy's name is Agreement.
Her pushy and never-say-die personality has helped her get away with things most tenants in the building couldn't. She is the only tenant that has spaza shop in the lobby of the building; she is loan shark.
The General has a soft spot for Ousie Girlie because she has to take care of this child by herself - because of this The General sometimes lets go for months without paying rent. Ousie Girlie uses the fact that The General has a soft spot for her to her advantage.
Ousie Girlie's direct competition in the building is Sporo, cause he also moonlights as a loan shark. She also does get along with Princess because Princess is always suspecting her of some underhand tactics when it comes to rent and other issues. She like Rofhiwa a lot, cause she finds him very respectful.
Her straight forwardness makes her really funny, she is not afraid to call it what it is. She lives for her grandson she calls him "myeniwami" a term of endearment, since the boy is too young to be her real husband.
She is also a bit old fashioned, uses a lot of Afrikaans tsotsietaal.
Ousie Girlie is originally from Lesotho, she loves to say "Manyeu", she arrived and worked in Hillbrow as a domestic worker, and was amshoza in her time. She is very strict, and calls a spade a spade.
She is a large, brash, woman. She is Sporo's eternal nemesis. She usually appears during night shift.
During the course of the series, one of the recurring subplots is the romance that develops between The Cleaner and the Caretaker.
The series is also populated by a variety of eccentric recurring cameos.
The Caretaker: Maakaplan
The Caretaker is an aging Swanker, of the Sophiatown era. He's been with the building since the very beginning. He knows every pipe, every air-conditioning duct, every nook and cranny of the building.
He is a mechanical genius – he can fix anything, usually with masking tape.
He is never without his "Bible", an ancient little leather bound book that contains all the measurements, security codes, and essential information about the building.
The Malawian Doctor: Dr. Ogude
The doctor is one of those inner-city doctors who advertises their services in flyers that are distributed at street corners. He appears frequently, as do his clients, as do his Tashiki-wearing friends and acquaintances.
He is seldom seen without a handful of herbs, a sacrificial goat, or a plastic bag full of animal entrails.
The Old Woman: Mrs. De Villiers
The Old Woman moved into the building in the early seventies, when its higher stories were reserved for residential use. She has remained ever since. She's a survivor, tough as nails, whose family have all left for Australia.
She survives on her government pension. She knows everything about everyone, and functions as a mother figure to the whole building.
The Estate Agent: Mrs. Cherel Wapenaar
An Afrikaans poppie, with bright red lipstick and high heels, her arrival is always preceded by the loud "tap-tap-tapping" of her heels.
She's one of our major antagonists in the series. The securities refer to her as "The Anaconda".
The Big Boss: Kekeletso
She is the General's boss – an attractive, no-nonsense corporate climber. She represents ultimate authority. The team constantly struggles to keep their illicit activities below her radar.
The Rival Security Company: Ukhozi Security
The rival security company runs the building next door, and a deep animosity has developed between the two teams. Ukhozi Security carries guns, whilst our boys do not.
They frequently arrive late at night, and swagger round with their weapons. They're part of a basement soccer league that runs between the various companies that operate in the area – this adds further frisson to the relationship.
Season 1 Cast
(scroll to bottom for available actor bios)
Sello Sebotsane ... Bhekumuzinsizwe Letswalo
Lerato Mvelase ... Princess
Hebron Sigwavhulimu ... Rofhiwa
Phillip Hlatshwayo ... Sporo Modadu
Pascaline Phale ... Ousie Girlie
Recurring / Guests
Siphiwe Nkosi ... Dr Makhathakhatha
Mac Mathunjwa ... Maakaplan
Mpho Molepo ... Mr Thole (Inspector)
Sello Motloung ... Clever Red Leader
Meren Reddy ... Soho
Mncedisi Shabangu ... Bra Sosha
Sello Zikalala ... Dumisani
Sibonelo Makamedi ... Agreement
Sinethemba Nkabinde ... News Reporter
Kgothatso Bidela ... Baby
Dambuza Dube ... Policeman
Thato Maphanga ... Thabo
Basie Kunene ... Solly
Taffy Makhanya ... Trevor
Sebasa Mogale ... Hlumelo
Themba Sithole ... Bonga
Constance Masindi ... Agnes
Ntuwiseni Mulaudzi ... Thikhathali