Play makes no ‘secret’ to political foibles


A new play by Witsies, Secret ballot, is an urban representation of contemporary South African politics. This politically driven play pokes fun at the shortcomings of our modern parliamentarians and issues we can all readily identify with.

“The play speaks urgently to the time,” said writer and director Jefferson Tshabalala.

From our beloved president Jacob Zuma to our blessed charismatic pastors, the story references contemporary figures of authority and ridicules the abundance of power and money and how that turns to greed when there is no accountability. It satirises recent social spectacles like the Braamfontein KFC street chicken saga and the #AskMmusi social media campaign.

“That is probably why we don’t have sponsorship from any institution,” cast member Tony Miyambo said. The cast and crew decided to not charge anything for the show and opted to let people donate however much they wanted.

This contemporary piece of protest theatre explores the greedy culture of tenderpreneurs. Politically connected individuals who got rich through the government tendering system. The play comically exploits how political clout is used to gain personal ‘sugar’ or riches as the play suggests.

“The production was largely informed by the political climate under which it was first written,” said Tshabalala, who wrote the play during the post -election period in 2014.

Tshabalala wrote speeches for the play and not normal dialogue to exaggerate how parliamentarians talk at rallies or even in parliament. “By observing social media and what’s on the news, the actors add the colour and texture over time in rehearsals to stay current,” said Miyambo.

“We wanted to move the personal dialogue among politicians to the public domain,” said Tshabalala.

Starring Zabalaza Mchunu, Tsietsi Morobi, Michael Mazibuko, Lereko Mfono and Tony Miyambo as the members of the brotherhood.  This group of young, black whiskey sipping white collar crooks wear dark sunglasses, expensive suites and even pricier shoes. The young and uneducated people run the show with grassroots political training which they have received from the older generation of cadres.

True to the political theatre genre, the play uses physical humour to speak to topical issues in an uncanny way. “As young theatre practitioners who take their craft seriously, we wanted to use pastiche to address young people who tend to switch off when debate about serious issues arise,” said Miyambo.

First staged in 2014, Secret Ballot highlights the bubbling under state of emergency that South Africa is in. The play tells the story of how large social agendas have grown into personalised crimes of entitlement.

“No run has been the same because the South African landscape constantly changes,” said Miyambo.

Hilarious and witty, the production opens discussion on the public issues, allowing for audiences to laugh at themselves. This political farce reflects society to back to itself, a must see for anyone alarmed by the quietly bubbling under frustration of the youth about our corrupt state of affairs.

The cast and crew are planning on taking their production on the road but have not yet firm plans due to a lack of funding. They will be advertising shows on their Facebook page KiriPinkNob.

Government Inspector tells of corruption through comedy

By Zelmarie Goosen and Robyn Kirk


THE RICH AND THE DUBIOUS: (from left) Obett Motaung, Campbell Jessica Meas, Michelle Schewitz, Jonathan Young and Peter Terry (foreground) in Jessica Friedan’s Government Inspector at the Wits Theatre. Photo: supplied

THE RICH AND THE DUBIOUS: (from left) Obett Motaung, Campbell Jessica Meas, Michelle Schewitz, Jonathan Young with Peter Terry (foreground) in Jessica Friedan’s Government Inspector at the Wits Theatre. Photo: supplied

The wealthy vying for the favour of the powerful, people giving gifts in order to gain something and a society in which greed conquers all. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

These are the central themes of the play Government Inspector that opened this week at the Wits Theatre.

Written more than 150 years ago the play is clearly still relevant to modern-day South African audiences.

For South African audiences

“It’s a satire set in Russia, not in South Africa, but I think we’ll see a lot of ourselves,” says director Jessica Friedan, a former Witsie. Friedan feels that through laughter, people look at issues differently. “I think we’re feeling a little brutalised with the country right now … we have enough commentary that’s very direct and very blunt and very harsh and we have enough depressing stuff.”

With the struggles South Africa is facing 20 years into democracy and the fallout from the Nkandla report fresh on our minds, Government Inspector takes a light-hearted look at what the elite will do to stay rich and powerful  through the deeds of a string of unlikable characters produced (or performed?) by  talented actors.

“I think it sort of brings out the universal themes of awful people using their positions to get lots of money and get lots of opportunities, which is as true in imperial Russia as it is here and anywhere else,” says Friedan.

Famous faces

The play sees guest performers Peter Terry and Matthew Lotter (both leading South African entertainers) acting alongside Wits School of Arts students. Friedan said she was  “very delighted” to have Terry and Lotter work with them.

“I think they bring a professionalism and an insight and also a perspective of what it is to work and what matters and doesn’t matter. The students have learnt a lot from them”.

Government Inspector is showing at the Wits Theatre on west campus, Braamfontein from till 30 April.