Maverick Life


Nkandlarnia retreats, Paul of the Mashatileites returns, ‘The SA Show’ is gearing up for its most exciting season yet

Nkandlarnia retreats, Paul of the Mashatileites returns, ‘The SA Show’ is gearing up for its most exciting season yet
Image design: Malibongwe Tyilo. Images: Gallo images/HBO

Grab your popcorn, plug the TV into your generator, and your Wi-Fi router to your UPS back-up battery, season 29 of ‘The South Africa Show’ might be the most exciting take on the Afro-political drama genre yet. Groundbreaking stuff, new depths, exciting lows.

Shortly after the 16-to-20 December screening of The South Africa Show: ANC CONference Xmas special, I, alongside my peers who are some of our country’s most elite TV critics, was invited to a preview of the upcoming 29th season of The South Africa Show. You’re in for a treat, long-suffering viewer. Get your resilience socks on, this groundbreaking show will break even more ground in the coming year, heading further down into previously unthinkable depths. It’s such an emotional roller coaster of a season that even though it’s been days since I watched the preview, I still struggle to achieve unmedicated sleep. 

I know some of you were worried that season 28, which came to an unimpeachably dramatic close, would be boring. That perhaps the actor who was cast into the presidential role a couple of years ago wouldn’t find his dramatic footing and the characters would prance around in ramaphoric bliss, with little in the way conflict, friction, espionage and the corruption that has made the Afro-political drama genre such exhilarating viewing as far back as the colonial era. 

You needn’t worry. 

Our country has some of the best scriptwriters on the African continent, and they respect the genre. Expect the kind of lows that would break the namby-pambies of the so-called developed world.

Not to say they’re formulaic in their take. I’m sure the genre enthusiasts among you will remember that often, in this kind of Afro-political drama, writers will introduce dictatorial leaders who overstay their welcome. How refreshing, then, that season after season, The South Africa Show scriptwriters have consistently given us a twist on this arguably tired trope. Bar the first guy, every single president has understayed their welcome, always leaving long before they have to.

SPOILER ALERT! The writers have decided to keep the sofa-banking president character for another season; although one never knows with this show. Sadly, the reliably ebullient tribe of Nkandlarnia and their allies from the eastern lands of RETardia, seem weakened in this season. And unfortunately, some plotlines also feel somewhat unsatisfying. There’s something very satisfying about seeing bad guys get their comeuppance on screen, but there’s been very little of that in the past, say, 21 seasons. In fact, many of them get rewarded with higher positions, ministerial portfolios, even the vice-presidency. All of which risks the show becoming very unconvincing. 

Take, for example, that Lord Gwedemental of the Mantasheites character, who literally works hard to speed up this civilisation’s climate apocalypse while also ensuring that the country can’t solve its electricity crisis for at least a couple of generations. The whole darkest Africa thing hearkens back to terribly racist colonial tropes, and I don’t understand why they would write in a character who works so hard to make this trope a reality. Sadly, they haven’t killed off this character yet, and he becomes even more prominent in the upcoming season.

While he could make for a refreshing villain, he remains a little one-dimensional, in my opinion. Perhaps he would be more excusable if they gave us a more personal storyline: what are his motivations? What are his vices? Is it booze? Is it crack? The writers should really consider sharing with us a bit more of his journey from point A to adorable grandfatherly psychopath. 

Speaking of one-dimensional characters, I thought they showed real promise with Lord Steenhuisen of the KwaZulunatalian highlands towards the end of the current season. Loved the misogyny storyline. Fitting. I could always tell there was something there, but I really didn’t expect brazen misogyny. Sadly, for the upcoming season, this character continues to be underutilised. There’s a couple of dramatic moments, but unsurprising, boring even. He continues to fumble, never owning up to the rage beneath the surface. I wish they had developed him a bit more than the clumsy gaffe machine with all the charm of a decaf coffee-drinking mid-level manager that they keep feeding us season after season.

Then there’s Lord Fikile the Mbalusional. I honestly thought they would finally write him out of the show. I was wrong, he becomes far more powerful in the new season. In a spectacularly mbalusional press conference towards the end of the Xmas special, he promised that in his new role in the upcoming season, he will take on the role of disciplinarian, stating that under his watch, “discipline is going to be important… If you want your own conscience, then open your own political party, not here. Here it is democratic centrally and the centre must hold. Whether you like it or not, the centre must hold… So, I promise you one thing, there will be no lawlessness in the ANC… Those who are continuing with those shenanigans, they must be ready for me… It’s going to be me and them.” No lawlessness in the ANC? The mbalusion continues!

I hope the writers will rethink this plotline. There’s nothing quite as boring as an Afro-political drama that lacks espionage and corruption. I hope they’ll change their minds like they did with the ramaphoria.

Also, keep an eye for a character from earlier seasons; once king in the North and an ally to Nkandlarnia in the east, although he seems to have retreated into the background of late, Paul of the Mashatileites clan returns, and he has big plans. That’s all I can tell you for now.

Without further spoilers, I can assure you that you’re in for a helluva season. If you thought Lady Lindiwe the Unburnt, of the legendary House of Sisulu, was just the best when she kicked off season 28 with her amazing attack on “house negro” judges and this fictional country’s constitution, wait until you see what she’s got up her decolonised sleeve much later in the season as she fights to reclaim the fading glory of the people of her native land, RETardia.  Stock up on your high blood pressure meds before your local Clicks gets looted – you’re gonna need them. Fuck it, maybe just call your dealer and order a couple of grams of RETex and get snorting, it’ll be even more fun that way. DM/ML


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