Ernest Msibi and Bonginkosi Dlamini AKA Zola 7. Picture: Facebook

When Yizo Yizo hit South African screens in the beginning of 1999, the face of local television dramas was transformed forever. 

The shocking toilet scene in the first episode where the school bully and gangster, Papa Action (Ronnie Nyakale) humiliates fellow pupil Bobo (Innocent Masuku) when he forces his face down the toilet seat to be flushed with excrement became a national talking point the night after it was screened.

Subsequent gory scenes such as the rape of gangster Chester (Ernest Msibi) in prison triggered a heated debate in the House of Assembly on its edutainment value - the first time a local drama series elicited such a response from the authorities. 

Its violent scenes and strong language disturbed old-school politicians with puritanical orientation. Unlike many productions that the public broadcaster has repeated ad nauseam, Yizo Yizo and its sequel, Yizo Yizo II has inexplicably never been replayed on SABC channels.

However, last week pay channel SABC Encore brought back the controversial series. How have conditions of violence, criminality and indiscipline in our schools changed after 18 years? There's no doubt that these problems as well as drug abuse have escalated on school premises. 

The level of bullying as well as its corollary, suicides and murders have become a serious matter of concern. It therefore behoves screenwriters and directors to produce similar dramas that capture the country's daily reality in gripping, uncompromising fashion.

Set in Supatsela High, a public school in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, the commissioned series broke ground as a no-holds-barred production that portrayed the state of the nation in a realistic, albeit with shock, value.

It brought together the cream of black acting talent, combining seasoned actors such as Patrick Ndlovu (Principal Mthembu), Patrick Shai (schoolteacher Edwin Thapelo) and Dominic Tyawa (Bra Gibb) with future stars like Meshack Mavuso (Javas), Christopher Kubheka (Gunman), Nomonde Gongxeka (Hazel) and Tshepo Ngwane (Thiza).

The series scooped numerous awards, including from countries such as Japan, Cuba and Finland. The 13-part series’ sequel graced screens and garnered glowing reviews at international film festivals in Europe and the US. 

And there's no doubt that Yizo Yizo has achieved a lasting impact on the industry and influenced how dramas are created.

This is one replayed series that I'm going to savour to the final episode.

* Yizo Yizo is broadcast on Tuesdays at 8.30pm on SABC Encore (channel 156).