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20 years later, the soap memories bubble up

Robert Whitehead as Barker Haines in 'Isidingo'. Picture: Facebook

Robert Whitehead as Barker Haines in 'Isidingo'. Picture: Facebook

Published Sep 24, 2020


Egoli: Place Of Gold

The cast of “Egoli: Place Of Gold”. Picture: Supplied

This was South Africa’s first soap opera. It aired on M-Net on weekdays. It enjoyed a run of 19 seasons.

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Created by Franz Marx, it featured legendary actors Shaleen Surtie-Richards (Ester aka Nenna Willemse), Brümilda van Rensburg (Lowna Edwards), David Vlok (Nick Naude), Tiffany Kelly (Sonet Vorster), Christine Basoon (Nora Roelofse Naude), Eckard Rabe (Chris Edwards), Steve Hofmeyr (Doug Durand) and Anrich Herbst (Dewald Vorster), Thoko Ntshinga (Donna Makaula) and Kevin Smith (Andrew Willemse).

Heck, even Joan Collins, Samantha Fox, Jerry Springer and Helmut Lotti ended up making guest appearances on the soap throughout its run.

The bilingual (English and Afrikaans) daily soapie was set within a small community. There was deception, love, betrayal, corruption, kidnapping, nosy parker neighbours and so forth.

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It offered a slice of SA life, showcasing some of the diversity in the country through its story arcs.

It targeted a middle to an upper-income female audience between the ages of 25 and 45.

It used to air at 6pm from Monday to Friday.

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A scene from “Generatiosn“. Picture: Supplied

The brainchild of the Mfundi Vundla, this soapie was set against the backdrop of the advertising sector. It made its debut on SABC1 in 1993. Not only did it celebrate black excellence, it also encouraged it.

It centred on New Horizons, a media enterprise founded by influential Moroka clan. Of course, with any powerful family, there is always dissension within the ranks.

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And Karabo Moroka (played by Connie Ferguson) and her brother Archie Moroka (Sello Maake Ka-Ncube) felt the heat constantly.

The strains of patriarchy were also felt by the lead female characters.

This soapie gave us some of the most iconic female villains like Pamela Nomvete, as Ntsiki Lukhele. She ticked all the boxes from power-hungry, artful and deadly.

Crossing her was a risky gambit.

Of course, who could forget Queen Moroka (Sophie Ndaba)? Darling, she was everyone’s favourite. Aside from being the biggest blabbermouth, she was loud and in your face.

There were plenty of memorable support characters, who contributed to Generations being a hit with South Africans.

They couldn’t get enough of the drama, deception, forbidden romances, secrets and power struggles.

This is also where Rapulana Seiphemo left an indelible impression as Tau Mogale as well as Cedwyn Joel as our favourite barman, Sonny Jacobs.

That it is still airing, albeit as Generations: The Legacy, where the world has evolved and the characters changed, attest to its success over the decades.


The cast from “Muvango“. Picture: Supplied

As the two other soaps were getting a thumbs up from South African viewers, Duma Ndlovu arrived with SA’s first Venda offering.

“Muvhango” aired on SABC2 on April 7, 1997.

Ndlovu’s intention was the bridge the cultural and linguistic divide. And he struck gold with the series.

The show explored family-orientated narratives while also exploring the challenges as the modern world threatened to breach their traditional way of life.

The soapie was divided into two backdrops. The first was the corporate world and the other the rural one in Venda.

Within the divisions, the Vhakwevho's took care of the traditional side of things while those in the city dealt with the challenges of living and working in the urban jungle.

“Muvhango” was built around family feuds, rivalry, treachery, forbidden love and corporate sabotage.

Some of the most well-known faces in the industry started their careers here, including Khanyi Mbau.

Marah Louw, the late Candy Moloi, Florence Masebe, Rami Chuene, Sindi Dlathu and Mutodi Neshehe were also unforgettable in their respective roles.

The longest-serving cast members are Gabriel Temudzani as Chief Azwindini Mukwevho and Dingaan Khumalo as businessman James Motsamai.

Isidingo: The Need

Some of the cast members on “Isidingo: The Need”. Picture: Supplied

When it launched on SABC3 in July 1998, it was celebrated for being one of the most pioneering soapies on air.

Created by Gray Hofmeyr, it was set in the mining world at Horizon Deep.

The story drew parallels between the affluent Haines family and the humble Matabanes.

When it first started, the De Villiers’ was a ’tour de force’ before the arrival of the Haines clan.

It used to air at 7pm on weekdays.

When it came to pushing the envelope, this soap did it all. It was a first in many ways when it came to addressing pertinent issues from interracial relationships, racism, HIV, homosexuality to even witchcraft and polygamy.

It gave us the greatest of the great with Meshack Mavuso as mine manager Vusi Moletsane, the late Lesego Motsepe, who played Letti Matabane, Jamie Bartlett as Mike O’Reilly, Hlomla Dandala as Derek Nyathi, Darlington Michaels as Georgie “Papa G” Zamdela, Rajesh Kumar as do-gooder Jack Devnarain and Michelle Botes as resident bad-ass, Cherel de Villiers.

Although it is no longer on air, it was a game-changer for SA television.

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