Principal Thobakgale has been to hell and back. Last year was the worst season for the headmistress of Turfloop High School. It all started when one of her teachers and someone she regarded as a loyal friend, Alfred Magongwa (Putla Sehlapelo) conspired against her and engineered her downfall.
Consequently, the education authorities relieved the strict but likeable school administrator of her duties citing corruption and mismanagement of school funds for her dismissal. Without a job and purpose, the humiliated educator withdrew from society and took solace in over-the-counter drugs.
It seemed like a downward spiral for her but thanks to her daughter, Elizabeth Thobakgale (Amanda Manku) she has bounced back to reclaim her rightful throne as the boss of Turfloop High.
Already the mastermind behind her downfall has been exposed but instead of being made to get a taste of his own medicine, he has been demoted to the position of deputy principal – a state of affairs that has set the stage for a showdown between the two.
The headstrong Magongwa has begrudgingly accepted his junior position but he’s not prepared to break bread with his new nemesis, the formidable Principal Thobakgale.
Elizabeth Serunye is the warm, bubbly and easygoing personality behind the stern character of the embattled headmistress who’s no longer sure who to trust among the members of her staff. As far as professional acting is concerned, Serunye has it in her soul. She’s a natural.
Already in her late forties, the Limpopo-born actress could be regarded as a late bloomer in the acting industry. But hers is a case of having known from childhood that she was a born entertainer but unlucky enough not to have cracked it earlier in life.
Indeed it took her a while before she could become a household name in television acting, but these days it seems she has been on the small screen for many years.
Seasoned actors and mentors Roseline Morapedi and Ramolao Makhene saw talent and potential in her and taught her the finer points of the craft. On the other hand, they made her aware of the fact that she had chosen a difficult career path but also encouraged her not to give up when the chips are down.
In the late Mmalonya actress, she didn’t only find a kind and considerate mother figure, but she also discovered that they shared another passion besides acting – gospel music.
Like Morapedi years before her, Serunye has been a lead singer in a gospel choir from her high school years. She met Morapedi and Makhene – sadly both are now deceased – on the set of 'Dinnete Tsa Bophelo', a Sesotho drama originally written by Phillip Mothupi. At the time she was only 23 and idealistic about the profession.
It was a small role and she soon came to realise that despite talent and hard work, success was not guaranteed. It would take some patience and perseverance as well.
Sure enough, her big break eventually came in the mid-2000s with roles in a number of television dramas such as Soul City, Home Affairs and the comedy, 'Mzee Wa Two Six' (2005).
In recent times she has demonstrated her versatility as a screen performer with a flair for portraying comic characters while at the same time utterly convincing in serious roles as the Principal Thobakgale character attests.
Memorable comedic roles include that of Mapaseka Montsho, the tyrannical queen of the kitchen at the 'Cherry Blossom' guest house in the SABC2 sitcom Moferefere Lenyalong.
As Rose Nakumba in 'Rhythm City', she combined the tragic and the comic as she battled to cope with an abusive husband, Jafta Nakumba (Sandile Dlamini) and a rebellious teenager, Mampho (Itumeleng Bokaba).
As for Principal Thobakgale, her challenges at Turfloop High are far from over and only time will tell whether she will eventually get rid of the monkey on her back, Magongwa.
* Skeem Saam airs every weeknight on SABC1 at 6:30pm.