Uncategorized From struggle to stage

From struggle to stage

Even when I don’t have electricity in my house, I still wake up in the dark and smile.” This is a reality in the life of the Sibusiso Senele “Mantolo” Masuko, an ex-member of the ANC military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe.

Mantolo’s story is a remarkable one to know as he managed to escape the death sentence while on death row twice – after being charged and found guilty of a murder he did not commit.

Sentenced to 40 years in prison, he went on a hunger strike for 39 days, “One day less than Jesus,” Mantolo adds jokingly. He was subsequently released.

Life to stage
The theatre production of his life story, which is written and directed by the State Theatre artistic director, Aubrey Sekhabi is told in the stage production, Mantolo: The tenth step. The performance gives a detailed image of the reality of the torment that occurred in prisons during the apartheid era. Using the backdrop of Pretoria townships and prison cells, the performance uses language and gestures typical of Pretoria townships.

There are two chilling scenes where, with fantastic technical proficiency, an actual hanging is shown on stage. A cast of seven actors is used to play a number of characters and the actors/actresses switch very smoothly from one character to another. Kholofela Kola who plays a total of five characters does so remarkably, changing from one character to the next with so much ease one is almost convinced it’s different actors playing the characters.

The universality of struggle
Although the main focus of the story is his struggle with the system, there are several allusions to current struggles.

Masuko is living with HIV/AIDS.

“Shame-le AIDS iyasithanda”,(shame, this AIDS loves itself) his character, played by Philip “Tipo” Thindiso, says, echoing what he says earlier in the play when he expresses his frustration with the apartheid-appointed kill squad member Almond Nofomela, “Shame- uNofomela uyasithanda (Shame- Nofomela loves himself).”

Also, one of his comrades, Oupa Mbonani, with whom he was on death row, was killed in a ruthless criminal attack after he was released from prison. These show the battles we still fight even after the “apartheid war”.

When asked whether he thinks he will return to politics, he replies, “Yes” and says, “Politics is a bread and butter issue.” Masuko says that seeing his story on stage has been part of a healing process from the scars of the torture that he endured while awaiting his trial.

Audience reaction
Sibongile Khumalo, South African jazz singer was a member of the audience on Tuesday’s performance. During the question and answer session after the show, she commended the cast and directors for telling the hitherto untold stories of South Africa’s fallen and often forgotten heroes.

She expressed sincere admiration for the humility of the brave character Masuko, who was present as he always is, at the performance.

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