rry Phele appears in The Throne, a new telenovela on Mzansi Magic.
Jerry Phele occupies an exalted place in the firmament of stardom in South African television.
It’s all thanks to the role of Mofokeng that he played in the iconic multi-language comedy, Emzini WeZinsizwa.
He and Tshawe (Vusi Thanda) are the only surviving leads of this once-in-a-generation production that continues to be referenced in local pop culture and lexicon.
Emzini examined the comedic moments and interaction of four men sharing a space in a hostel, which became fertile ground for slapstick.
Each spoke their own language, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho, but got along and understood each other.To this day, after numerous starring roles, Phele has forsaken his identity to Mofokeng.
“I’ve tried to correct people, I’ve given up. It has become my name. Even when I meet the real Bafokeng, they call me Phoka [clan name] and ask me where in Qwaqwa I am from.
“Even my children are known as Mofokeng children and my mother is Mofokeng’s mother. I now take it as a compliment, it means that the character I played really made an impression on people,” he laughs.
“Emzini played a powerful role in promoting social cohesion. It showed us that no matter which language you speak, botho ke botho [humanity is humanity] and we should all be equal. Now I see how that style has been adopted on TV where you see a Zulu speaker in conversation with a Tswana and none of them compromise on their language yet they understand each other.”
I’m talking to Phele ahead of his big debut on The Throne, the new Mzansi Magic telenovela from Connie and Shona Ferguson’s Ferguson Films production house, coming on July 30.The drama is premised around a mythical modest Tswana kingdom in today’s Magaliesberg, North West, thrown into disarray when mineral deposits are discovered on their land and the legitimacy of reigning monarch Queen Mosadi Kwena (Monnye Kunupi) is questioned.
The show sees Lerato Zah Moloi play the ambitious royal daughter Kefilwe while Tsholo Matshaba is Odirile, the queen’s discontented younger sister.
Kabelo Moalusi plays the queen’s only son and her middle child, Tumelo, and Don Mlangeni portrays Moseki, the queen’s younger brother.