Mpho Tshabalala on Mandoza’s biopic: ‘His legacy will live on’

Mandoza performs at the Moletsane Sports Complex in Soweto in 2012. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Mandoza performs at the Moletsane Sports Complex in Soweto in 2012. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Jul 24, 2023


Mpho Tshabalala says she’s committed to honouring the legacy of her late husband, Mduduzi “Mandoza” Tshabalala.

The upcoming biopic, “Nkalakatha: the Life of Mandoza”, aims to celebrate the kwaito star’s life and the impact he had on the South African entertainment scene.

The six-part biopic follows Mandoza's life from his humble beginnings, his rise to stardom, and the bitter-sweet years leading up to his death at the age of 38 from pharyngeal cancer on September 18, 2016.

As an executive producer of the biopic, Mpho felt it was crucial to portray Mandoza's life as authentically as possible.

She said she wanted the biopic to reflect his true character and not create a false image of him, which led to the involvement Mandoza's close friends, family and fellow musicians in the process to provide insights into his life.

“This biopic has been in the pipeline for years but I had to go look for money to make it happen and I’m happy that it’s finally here and I cannot wait to share this deeply personal story. I hope everyone will enjoy it,” said Mpho.

“Nkalakatha: the Life of Mandoza” will take viewers on a journey from Mandoza’s childhood in Zola to significant milestones such as the birth of his eldest son, Tokollo, and his devoted care for his wife after she suffered a stroke.

“From an early age, as a young boy, he was always looking for ways to help others. He was always so caring and thoughtful. He was a hard worker. He knew that I always wanted to buy his mother a house.

“He wanted his kids to have a better life than he did… He wanted them to go to the best schools,” reflected Mpho.

“What is also interesting in the biopic is that we used his actual clothes and my actual clothes. For instance, in the wedding scene that's my actual wedding dress, that's his actual wedding suit.

“Sometimes you hold on to things not knowing… now I know why I held on to these things. So that's why we had to take a journey. People don't understand how much we had to prepare for this because it wasn't something written, it was a life that lived.

“And I'm glad that the cast that we chose, especially Wiseman and Lorraine, they are spiritually orientated like I am. They are prayer warriors, so we went into prayer mode.

“We went to the grave site, siyo biga (to inform him of what’re about to embark on). We had to ask for permission to use his clothes. Wiseman would pull out uMduduzi and I would sometimes refuse to speak to him on set.

“And Lorraine is my twin. I love that woman so much. It’s like she’s been living behind me all these years because I would tell stories and she will come back the next day and she perform some of the stuff exactly the way I would.

“There were scenes where we had to stop shooting because some of the things happened to me and we will be emotional, so yeah, it’s been an interesting ride this far.”

Mpho acknowledged that it was a challenging task condensing 38 years of such a multi-faceted life into just six episodes.

“Remember, we are dealing with uMduduzi, uThembinkosi and uMandoza.

“uThembinkosi is a young boy from Zola, uMduduzi is a father, husband, son, and brother and then there’s uMandoza, the superstar, so it’s one person, three lives, 38 years. Try fitting all of that into six episodes.”

Despite the pain of losing her husband, Mpho has found solace in her faith, trusting that God did not inflict this tragedy upon her to hurt her.

“When my husband died, I promised myself that I will ensure that his legacy lives you.

“Part of my healing process was establishing the Mandoza Foundation, which I launched on September 18, 2017. It was my birthday and also the one-year anniversary of his passing.

“I launched the foundation to help cancer patients. So what we've been doing over the years, joined organisations such as CanSurvive (a survivor-driven cancer awareness and education project).

“I couldn't save my husband, but let me save other people. So, last year, seven years after his passing, we sat down with the board and said yes, we will still do our community projects but now we want to focus on what he lived for and then on what he died of,” Mpho said.

“This biopic is the foundation of what he lived for. It is a celebration of his life and legacy.”

“Nkalakatha: the Life of Mandoza”, which is set to premiere on August 16 on BET Africa (DStv Channel 129), stars Wiseman Mncube as Mandoza and Lorraine Moropa as Mpho. The film also features Thandeka Dawn King, Lillian Dube and Nkosinathi “Mzambiya” Khoza.

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