Florence Masebe is a South African actress known locally for her role in the series Muvhango. She won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 9th Africa Movie Academy Awards. Supplied
Johannesburg - South African creatives have shown they aren’t timid when it comes to exercising their freedom of creativity in a new Sunday night drama on Mzansi Magic - The Republic.

The plot of this star-studded drama, headlined by veteran actress Florence Masebe, is art imitating real life, with little innuendos.

And celebrated scriptwriter Phathutshedzo Makwarela of Tshedza Pictures, didn’t hold back.

Makwarela tells a tale of a state that is desperate for a solid leader following a gap created when President Kgalema Motlanthe’s term came to an end in 2009 and was replaced by President Hendrik Mbuli who was removed by his party, owing to corruption and looting of state funds.

To rescue the country, ruling party’s secretary and anti-corruption champion, Lufuno Mulaudzi - portrayed by Masebe - becomes the country’s first female president.

“If I were a president for a day, I would definitely sign the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill into law,” said Masebe.

In preparation for this role, Masebe consciously veered from stereotypical gender roles, choosing to focus on leadership characteristics and drawing inspiration from various people who groom presidents.

The actress, whose career spans over 25 years, said playing a fictional character was fun and yet challenging.

“It’s a complex role and it took a lot out of me on a daily basis,” she said.

“Because we have never had a female president before to emulate, this meant that I had to look at anyone and everyone to draw in different elements to bring the character to life.

“And that is, for me, the role of the arts at all times, to always be available to mirror society and highlight the ‘what ifs’, and not just the negative but the ‘what could be if we did things according to the dream’,” she said.

To create Madam President, as she merrily refers to her on-screen persona, Masebe drew inspiration from some of the continent’s female presidents and also tapped into leading local female politicians such as Winnie Mandela, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Ayanda Dlodlo, Thandi Modise, all adding colour and flair to President Lufuno.

“I said yes to this project because I think it’s been a while since we, as artists, have been this raw.

“Such productions leave us thinking and reflecting on where we are headed as a society,” said Masebe, adding that even with such meaty roles on offer, the struggle for artists was far from over.

“I am never sure how much one can pour back into an industry that doesn’t give financially. Had we been in a different country, the work we do would have brought a lot of physical rewards and resources to plough back,” she said.

Makwarela, one of the show’s creators, said President Lufuno was created with Masebe in mind.

“The entire idea (of The Republic) was sparked from the ANC elective conference in that suddenly the idea of South Africa having a female president was no longer just lip service but we started hearing women’s voices and saw them boldly positioning themselves as capable leaders,” said Makwarela.

“The different elements of the show were crafted to start a dialogue and generate debate about leadership, what leadership is in the South African context and hopefully be able to snowball into whatever the majority of the country believe should be the way forward,” added Makwarela.

The Sunday Independent