Siyabonga Shibe. Picture: Supplied

Since his TV debut 16 years ago as Sifiso in Gaz’lam, the popular SABC1 educational drama series, Siyabonga Shibe has never set a foot wrong. Unlike Sifiso, who succumbed to drug addiction after he was blinded by the bright lights of instant fame and the fast lane, the Umlazi-raised actor has been totally focused on his craft and has kept his personal life as private as possible.

Subsequently, the tabloids have given up on him and although his fans and admirers would generally regard him as a celebrity, following a number of memorable TV roles he has garnered since 2002, it’s a term he has conscientiously refused to embrace.

Instead, he prefers to be considered a storyteller and a positive role model - a public figure who has steadfastly shunned media scrutiny while he remains an inspiration for young, aspiring actors. For him, acting is about the passion and not the publicity, which some of his colleagues tend to crave like a drug.

If the current storyline in Uzalo is anything to go by, then Shibe is indeed at top of his game. He plays Qhabanga Mhlongo, the seemingly over-confident, rogue cop who tends to underestimate his adversaries, notably his elder brother, Nkunzi Mhlongo (Masoja Msiza) - who is a ruthless, homicidal underworld figure who runs a car theft syndicate at the barrel of a gun.

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Exactly a year ago this week, Shibe joined the gripping Zulu drama series. The spotlight is now firmly on his controversial character. From the onset Mhlongo, as a potentially good policeman, was destined to be manipulated and compromised by Nkunzi, a ruthless manipulator who has survived some assassination attempts in the hands of his younger brother. 

The brothers @uzalo_sabc1 #photoshoot #gameplaying

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However, Qhabanga seems to have graduated into a chess grandmaster with a number of witting and unwitting pawns to move around at will.

There’s the hapless Mondli (Thembinkosi Thwala), an ex-cop and rival who has stolen Qhabanga’s girlfriend, Nosipho Xulu (Nompilo Maphumulo).

The fact that Mondli has accepted a job at the church as a driver has placed him at Qhabanga’s mercy.

And the latter is already salivating at the possibility of seeing his adversary on his knees and begging for mercy. It’s time for sweet revenge. There’s also Pastor Mdletshe (Glen Gabela), who is likely to lose his reign over the pulpit if he doesn’t open his eyes and watch out for the wily newcomer in the house of God. 

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Qhabanga’s money laundering scheme that he operates through the church’s trust fund is running smoothly and he’s pleased that, so far, the congregation remains blissfully unaware of his trickery.

His ultimate prize is the leadership of the church and should he manage to grab it, Qhabanga’s chances of outwitting Nkunzi - his main nemesis - would be greatly improved.

Actually, he’s determined to permanently remove the formidable big brother from society and he’s prepared to pay a marksman for the job as he personally won’t shed his own blood. The stage is set for one of the bloodiest showdowns on local television.

* Uzalo is broadcast weekdays on SABC1 (channel 191) at 8.30pm. It will be aired on SABC2 for the duration of the Fifa World Cup soccer coverage.

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