South Africa and the world are still shell-shocked by the tragic death of model/reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot by her Paralympian boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, on Valentine’s Day. There appears to be a growing trend of violence among SA’s celebrities. Debashine Thangevelo posed a few weighty questions to the soap fraternity. Actors Wandile Molebatsi (The Wild) and Zolisa Xaluva (Generations) were the only ones who spoke out.
THE entertainment fraternity – at least where the soap world is concerned – appears to be divided and/or has decided against voicing their sentiments on the Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp saga, the incident in which a prominent actor-producer was charged with assault, or anything with a seemingly negative connotation (aka ramifications for their career) – state of current affairs be damned.
Yes, such issues are controversial. However, if true-life events à la the late Lindiwe Chibi (Doobsie in Muvhango), who was shot in the face by her boyfriend; Afro-pop singer Kelly Khumalo speaking out after her physically abusive relationship with Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye; Mandla Mthembu admitting to slapping his then socialite wife Khanyisile Mbau; and presenter Bonang Matheba making public her alleged abuse by DJ beau Euphonik, say anything, it is that something has to be done.
And while our soap icons have the ideal platform to spread the message against violence and abuse against women, most have politely declined to comment or had the channel’s PR do so on their behalf.
e.tv’s Alexia de Souza wrote: “The soapies (Rhythm City, Scandal) have previously carried strong storylines aimed at addressing issues such as domestic violence, rape and murder. We would, however, like to decline this interview opportunity as it would not be astute for any of our personalities to comment on these events before the necessary legal processes have been concluded.”
Meanwhile, 7de Laan’s publicity and PR manager, Tsholofelo Modise, responded: “Unfortunately, none of our senior actors and actresses wants to comment on this issue. Some are friends with Oscar, others with Rapulana.”
That they were merely asked, as part of this nation affected by the shocking turn of events, to share their feelings – not to pass any judgement – mattered none. And so the pussyfooting prevailed with fearless actors – Wandile Molebatsi, Blessing in M-Net’s The Wild, and Zolisa Xaluva, Jason Malinga in SABC1’s Generations – the only ones agreeing to comment in their personal capacity. These are two real stars, on and off screen.
What were your initial thoughts when you learnt Pistorius had killed his girlfriend Steenkamp.
Molebatsi: “It just didn’t seem possible. I know the media can paint people in a certain way and every time I have seen interviews of, or comments by Oscar, he comes across as a genuine, level-headed young man. It really has not sunk in. It seems a terribly sick joke.”
Xaluva: “I thought it was someone’s idea of a sick joke. Now I feel the law should take its course.”
In light of speculation again that South Africa is a battle field, have you ever felt unsafe?
Molebatsi: “This is an incredible country. There is deep and severe inequality that is being addressed. The reality is that, until we have true and meaningful equality, there will be violent crime. I have felt unsafe and that feeling is very difficult to ignore. But I guess my parents have given me a very definite sense of where the anger comes from and I take on the feeling of uncertainty and fear with a measure of calmness and hope about the future of South Africa. My stance is often seen as naive and simple; but I have been a victim of crime; so have my family, so my feelings are not based on a ridiculous dream. It’s a fundamental sense of hope I have.”
Xaluva: “There are stories of extremely violent crimes being reported from all over the globe. To single South Africa out is simply not fair. I’ve been mugged a few times, but I feel like my overall safety is not under threat.”
A prominent soap actor-cum-film-producer was charged with assault. Would you say this is becoming a serious problem among our celebrities?
Molebatsi: “I don’t think it’s a problem with celebrities or sportsmen, it’s a problem with the entire country.”
Xaluva: “The issue of violence is a nationwide, across the board thing. It’s not a celebrity sickness. Women often withdraw the charges and I don’t think that helps much, in fact, it destroys their credibility.”
What advice would you give to someone when their temper/jealousy threatens to get the better of them?
Molebatsi: “Anger is something we all need to deal with every day. I am always stunned at the reaction I get on the roads. Road rage is a symptom of the high tempers in the country. When I am furious and want to vent, I take myself away from people and think about what I am upset about. I find silence and being alone helps to calm me down. Always talk to someone when you have calmed down.”
Xaluva: “The lack of loyalty is a real issue in relationships. Jealousy often comes to the fore as a result. People need to develop a sense of self-worth and build themselves towards a strong self-esteem. When confronted with rage, walk away!”
What are your thoughts on having a gun for protection?
Molebatsi: “That’s a never. If you are not a trained police officer or a member of the SANDF, you have no reason to have a gun in your possession.”
Xaluva: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Temper-charged people should avoid owning guns. But a gun could save your life. This issue is debatable.”