Defend Truth


SONA 2016, the soapie


Ian von Memerty is a Zimbabwean-born South African entertainer, actor, singer, musician, writer, director and television presenter.

South Africans are addicted to soap operas. In fact South Africans are actually employed to go around the world teaching other countries how to create a successful soap opera (yet another unrecognised export of ours!) And every year the nation tunes in for our favourite soap opera. SONA. After last year’s episode where we had violence, mayhem and the lead actor giggling with Machiavellian glee – WHAT would they do this year to top that?

All the main actors were there. There was the Wicked Step Mother of the house (Baleka Mbete), who had put on her softest TV make-up, given herself really big, fluffy, leading-lady hair and was wearing her best mother-of-the-bride dress. Then came Big Daddy, (Jacob Zuma) in a somber grey suit, and suppressing his irrepressible charming chuckle – he has put his extended family through an embarrassing couple of months, so he had now decided to play the part of the sober and thoughtful leader.

And, of course, everyone’s favorite “baddie” who has managed some really scene stealing good scenes before, (Julius Malema). Big Daddy’s former favorite son, like any spoilt teenager had gathered all his loud raucous friends together, let’s call them the Rebel Angels (all dressed the same, ‘cos you know how teenagers like to conform). Last year they had the best time; threats, yelling and then a good fist fight – a perfect spoilt gangster’s night out.

But sadly it all fell rather flat. The Rebel Angels – who are now looking way too fat and over-fed to be convincing in their roles of spokespeople for the poor and starving – hadn’t thought of anything new to say. So they started off doing what they had done last year – being rude, and interrupting everyone, and although the Step-Mother tried to stay in control and be firm with them, she got progressively more angry. But she did not make the same mistake to call in the Special Security Company like last year. She had learnt that they tend to over-react and to scare the neighbours, and Big Daddy had told her that whatever happens they can’t look frightened – even if they are!

Then an Grumpy Uncle, (Terror Lekota) who at one time was also a valued member of the family, got up and said he couldn’t bear to listen to Big Daddy because …. “Well, he’s not my friend any more, and I don’t want to!” (not the best line of the night but he had to say something otherwise he might as well not even be in the cast) and he walked out taking his small party of disgruntled cousins with him. Which meant that when the Rebel Angels walked out later, that Grumpy Uncle had used their best trick. Talk about up-staging! Anyway, they were bored, (and boring is VERY bad for Viewing Figures and Approval Ratings). Really this was nothing like as much fun as last year. (Note to script writer for the Rebel Angels – have to try and make them look less like a one trick pony).

Once he finally got his moment centre stage – Big Daddy rather overplayed his role of reformed sinner. Whereas last year he at least looked like a leading man, this time he looked like an understudy – not entirely convinced that he should be there, saying the lines. He was so busy pretending to be trust-worthy, that he had let them completely overwrite his script. A bewildering concoction; both a complete fantasy and yet bum-numbingly boring.

There were a couple of nice character performances. The prissy secretary of the Neighbourhood Watch (John Steenhuisen) got up to complain that the step-mother was actually in breech of article 2, section 4, sub-clause 12, which the entire neighbourhood had voted on. Tsk! Tsk! But the chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch (Stone Sizani) was having none of that – and waved the script around to prove that he knew what he was talking about. The doddery old grand father from down the road, (Mangosuthu Buthelezi) briefly staggered to the microphone and mumbled how every thing was going to the dogs. Then a very nice short sharp appearance from the trendy new arrival in the neighbourhood (Mmusi Maimane) saying “get on with it – the country is waiting” (which is pretty much what we were all thinking by now).

The step-mother was so furious and busy casting murderous looks at her estranged family that she handed over the whole thing to the Wise Auntie from across the road (Thandi Modise). She looked the Rebel Teenagers in the eye and they knew that they had met their match. Auntie had the best line of the night. “I don’t think we are making South Africans very proud”.

And she was dead right. Really, without some serious recasting and some decent rewrites I don’t think I’ll even bother watching next year’s episode! DM


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