Peter Mashigo’s latest role is as Magubane in DStv’s The Herd. Picture: Daniel Coetzee

Peter Mashigo’s performance in Nongogo was top-drawer stuff. The same observation can be extended to fellow cast members Vusi Kunene (Sam), Zenzo Ngqobe (Johnny), Bongani Gumede (Patrick) and Zikhona Sodlaka (Queenie). They were truly amazing.

In this Athol Fugard stage classic, based on shebeen life and the black condition in the Sophiatown era, Mashigo plays Blackie, the hunchback who is fiercely loyal to Queenie, the shebeen keeper with a controversial past. He runs errands for her and, when some patrons get out of control, he serves as the bouncer who must keep order.

Occasionally he operates as a small-time crook, who steals valuables in the white suburbs and sells them in the locations - as the townships were known in those years. 

The original role of Blackie was portrayed by the late Zakes Mokae, a skilful actor who went on to achieve global renown in Hollywood as an exile. Mashigo’s performance six decades later attests to the richness of artistic talent in this country. 

I have started on a theatrical note for a TV column because Mashigo boasts a solid theatre background in the hands of eminent thespians like Gibson Kente, John Ledwaba and Aubrey Sekhabi.

That’s where his acting journey started before he became a familiar TV face following a lead role in the SABC1 drama series, Mzansi (2005). Previously he had a number of minor roles. 

Interestingly, after watching the James Ngcobo-directed production at the Market Theatre last Sunday, I was introduced to Mashigo’s latest TV role by sheer chance. He plays Magubane, a seemingly respectable family man with a troubled past and an ongoing battle with alcoholism. 

His daughter, Lwandle (Zethu Dhlomo) is out to pay revenge against the man who double-crossed him, Bhekisizwe Mthethwa (Sello Maake Ka Ncube).

This she does by stealing the wealthy stock farmer’s prized cattle.

The Herd is a 13-part drama series that promises to keep viewers glued to the screen with engaging episodes. The themes of personal power and pursuit of earthly riches had become the staple of our television stories and the building blocks of our narratives.

Given the universality of these themes, maybe this is understandable, but I honestly hope the producers and screenwriters will take it easy on the supernatural storylines - particularly witchcraft. There’s already a lot of that, especially in productions such as Isibaya.

Anyway, this Mzansi Magic production reintroduces Winnie Ntshaba in the lead as MaMngadi, a shadowy character who could have easily been one of the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Her penchant for the dark arts defines her existence and purpose in life. 

Ntshaba was one of the 16 Generations actors who were axed, following a contractual dispute with the soapie’s bosses in 2014. Since then she has never played a prominent role.

That is, until now. At the heart of The Herd’s storyline is a human sacrifice that was made by Mthethwa at the behest of his wife, MaMngadi for riches. Peter Mashigo is also best known as Pastor Tlhong in the SABC2 sitcom, Ga Re Dumele. His is a remarkable but unsung talent.

The Herd airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv), channel 161, Sundays at 8pm.