Thandeka Qwabe on playing her new strong female character on ‘Uzalo’ and making strides in farming

Actress Thandeka Qwabe has returned to daily South African TV with her role on “Uzalo”. Picture: Supplied

Actress Thandeka Qwabe has returned to daily South African TV with her role on “Uzalo”. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 29, 2023


Actress Thandeka Qwabe is back on Mzansi daily television following her debut this week on the highly watched SABC 1 soapie “Uzalo”.

Qwabe stars as Philile Thabethe, Sipho’s biological mother, who left him and went on to live her own life. The mother and son had an emotional reunion that was nowhere warm.

The role was a bit nerve wrecking for the actress. This role is very far from the sweet, humble and loving character she played on “Isibaya” as Thandi, who was Bekhumuzi’s(Melusi Mbele) love interest.

Philile is not the character that viewers fall in love with immediately, a mother who has left her child to pursue the high life and when he wants to reconnect with her, she is cold as ice.

Having not been on daily television since “Isibaya”, (she appeared in the latest season of “Isifiso” but it aired only on Mondays), Qwabe admits she did feel the pressure and that pushed her to pull out her A-Game.

The results were evident as viewers are glued into the emotional role that explores a topic that is not always spoken about - mothers who leave their children behind.

Having never portrayed a character who is a mother, a married woman with a family, Qwabe found herself watching the series, “The Fixer” and found inspiration in Olivia Pope’s character.

“She’s a very strong character but at the same time, she plays her anger very subtly and you just never know what she is thinking next. So I had to do a lot of research to get into the character because just to connect to the character.

“Myself as Thandeka, I grew up with so much love and I couldn't really personally relate to the story. And it’s just amazing to see how a lot of people are relating to it, especially men that have been left to raise young children.”

The young actress may have been nervous when entering the top production, after all it is the most watched show in the country, but the “warm welcome” she received put her at ease with everyone affirming their belief in her talent.

Qwabe’s character is set to be on screens for a couple of months and production took a risk with the storyline and so far, but it’s paying off with the audience engaging and receiving it well.

“They could add more layers to the story, production has the option of unearthing those layers as the storyline continues to play out,” she added.

Outside of acting, the Eshowe-born, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is a vegetable farmer and while it has not been an easy journey, she is making strides.

“It’s quite a male dominated industry and it’s been challenging but good. It challenges me to do even more and more bravely to take bigger steps.

“When I started I started on five hectares of land, now I have 195 hectares. I started on a tiny scale because I was scared of what if it doesn't work out. I didn't even have a market when I started.”

Thandeka Qwabe’s farming business is making strides, she has even landed a contract with Spar. Picture: Supplied

Qwabe put in the work that was needed, asked for the necessary help from the right people and when things were slowly coming to fruition, she started knocking on doors and eventually landed her first client - a contract with Spar.

From harvesting cabbage, Qwabe has been able to also work with sugar beans and is continuously learning the ins and outs of the farming world.

“I took the leap of faith and just trusted God and the whole process and I think it’s been a good challenge and rewarding result as well. I still have a long way to go, maybe in the next two to three years I can say I've done really well but for now I’m happy with the baby steps I've taken.”

Thandeka Qwabe’s vegetable farm is growing, she currently has a 195 hectares. Picture: Supplied

Qwabe in all that she does strives to be authentic, even with her social media, only collaborating with brands that align with who she is.

As South Africa approaches Women’s Month, Qwabe encourages young girls and women to invite God in all that they do, which is something that she applies to her own life.

“Sometimes we have plans for ourselves but it might not be plans that God has for us. When ‘Isibaya’ ended I was so stressed out and luckily I had the opportunity to start farming. Our industry is not consistent and it’s not what people see on social media.”

She encourages people to be humble and practise kindness towards others, as you never know what the future may bring and hard work takes you places.