‘Gqeberha: The Empire’ isn’t without flaws but it has potential to make its mark in the telenovela space

Luzuko Mxenge (played by Mbulelo Grootboom) in Gqeberha - The Empire. Picture: Supplied

Luzuko Mxenge (played by Mbulelo Grootboom) in Gqeberha - The Empire. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 22, 2023


Local content is king in SA. And the proliferation of dramas, telenovelas and reality TV shows support this statement.

Of course, Mzansi Magic’s much-hyped telenovela “Gqeberha: The Empire” has been making a lot of noise since it debuted on Monday.

Taking over the slot of “The Queen”, I was curious about the offering.

As such, I caught up on the two episodes that were available on DStv Catch Up.

Side note: whoever is supposed to be uploading the episodes isn’t on the ball. It’s hit-and-miss. Not just with this show.

Back to the telenovela, the first episode has a few jarring inconsistencies. But it isn’t all bad, there are positives too.

Overall, the premise of this offering follows Luzuko Mxenge (played by Mbulelo Grootboom), a successful businessman with three wives. They are Bulelwa (Zikhona Sodlaka), Zimkhita (Zandile Msutwana) and Nozuko (Kay Bikitsha).

In the first episode, Luzuko is seen celebrating a major business deal with his close friends and trusted son, Thulani (Tembinkosi Litha Ngcukana). The festive mood is disturbed by an invasion by a group of armed men, ending in Luzuko being shot and rushed to hospital.

That said, Thulani was able to take out a few of them.

What followed was a little farcical, to be blunt. I have never seen a gunshot victim so alert right after lifesaving surgery.

Don’t even get me started on his sturdy gait on his way to lunch not long after. Gosh, that is the speediest recovery. Ever.

By now, viewers understand creative liberties. But certain scenes really do stretch credulity in the show.

Emotional reactions in several instances eclipsed the authenticity of the moment. And it is problematic.

That said, there are a few gems who are a joy to watch as they own their roles. Sodlaka is up there. She is confident, and sincere and plays her character with the authoritative edge it demands.

As is Ayanda Makayi in his supporting role as a street-smart Sokkie (Thulani’s bestie). He also underpins his character with humour, especially with his love for an ice lolly.

Litha Ngcukana has immense potential. He wears his ruthlessness on his sleeve.

And then there is Anathi Njoloza (Akhenime Mfenyana), a young ambitious woman who wants to open her own restaurant. She also supports her grandmother and younger brother.

Unbeknown to her, she happens to also catch the eye of Thulani. This follows after his father Luzuko falls hard for her and intends on making her his fourth wife.

Mfenyana reminds me of Nomzamo Mbatha when she was cast as a lead in “Isibaya”. A ravishing beauty, she is a natural on camera. I foresee great things for this actress.

Anathi Njoloza played by Akhenime Mfenyana in Gqeberha: The Empire. Picture: Supplied

Of course, I’m sure there will be plenty of drama around this love dilemma in episodes to come.

Fans have responded positively to the telenovela. With it shot in the Eastern Cape, the landscape is added as a character to the storyline.

The panned shots of the city are often interwoven into the frame. And, if you haven’t visited this serene seaside town, you almost want to.

In terms of the storyline, itself, the juxtaposition of two worlds – the Kasi lifestyle with suburbia – makes it relatable.

The polygamous way of life of the main characters is also a talking point. And it is insightful, too.

The family dynamics are also exposed. You have dissension among the ranks with the sons and wives.

While Bulelwa is firm in her communication, Zimkhita is underhanded. And her envy and hate are exposed in her actions.

As for Nozuko, she is the trophy wife. She’s young, rebellious about traditions and bolshie.

The telenovela entices with its themes of infidelity, betrayal, ambition, love, poverty, crime, polygamy and concealed dark ambitions.

Bulelwa (played by Zikhona Sodlaka) in Gqeberha: The Empire. Picture: Supplied

I’ve yet to warm to Grootboom as the lead and anchor. He lacks the gravitas of your Hlomla Dandala, Vusi Kunene, Siyabonga Thwala or Sello Maake kaNcube.

Perhaps, over time, he will be strengthened and moulded into becoming as iconic as these actors.

As outlined above, “Gqeberha: The Empire” has strengths and weaknesses. But, given that it is helmed by Tshedza Pictures and directed by the industry's most proficient names, I’m sure it will find an engaged fan base.

That said, the film-making flaws, some of them unforgivable, need to be corrected. And fast.

“Gqeberha - The Empire” airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) at 9pm, on weekdays.