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'The Republic' is a biting critique of the state of South Africa

Florence Masebe, Noxolo Dlamini, Lemogang Tsipa and Bongile Mantsai in ’The Republic’. Picture: Mzansi Magic

Florence Masebe, Noxolo Dlamini, Lemogang Tsipa and Bongile Mantsai in ’The Republic’. Picture: Mzansi Magic

Published Jan 23, 2022

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There are times when my mind wanders back to Durban during the looting spree in July.

There were sirens blaring. Helicopters flying over my home every five minutes. Blasts in the evening. Random screams. Sometimes laughter.

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And then an eerie silence. And then boom! Something has been blasted again and soon the air is filled with the sound of cars speeding, sirens blaring even louder than earlier in the day. It felt like a war zone.

Revisiting that moment while watching the second season premiere of Mzansi Magic's “The Republic”, which airs on Sundays at 8pm, left me, as my millennial peers would say, shook AF.

Seeing the devastation brought on by the fictional looters in Tembisa, made me realise I still have unresolved trauma from the real-life events of July 2021.

I changed the channel, choosing to watch something light. A day later, I tackled the show again. I am glad I did.

There are many things on “The Republic” that mirror current-day South Africa. The show, the brainchild of the International Emmy Award-nominated Phathutshedzo Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon, of Tshedza Pictures, does not shy away from facing the reality of South Africa today.

The Republic juxtaposes the political battles that happen at the top with the hungry and frustrated public feeling ignored. It is a tale of two worlds.

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There's rampant corruption, narcissistic ministers who only care about what they stand to gain and a president, Lufuno (Florence Masebe), who is trying her best to lead with wisdom, compassion, while still trying to exert control.

The pertinent question in all of this is: who does she trust?

The loyal aide, Bridget (Masasa Mbangeni) whose husband died for the country and saved her presidency in the first season?

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The brash police minister, MK, who thinks he is smarter than everyone in the room? Or does she trust no one and is merely trying to keep her Cabinet in check by not rocking the boat or revealing her cards?

And with the State Capture report due any day from the former chief justice, is she keeping everyone at arm’s length so she can make the necessary decisions? And she has reasons to not trust anyone as the call is indeed coming from inside the house, the house being her Cabinet.

And then you have a corrupt police captain who starts the chaos in Tembisa, which leads to the murder of the chief justice and the theft of the sole copy of the report, stolen by the captain for his boss, the police minister.

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Noxolo Dlamini as Thina and Lemogang Tsipa as Sizwe on ’The Republic’. Picture: Mzansi Magic

In the mix is the community of Tembisa, who are pawns in a game of political roulette.

This takes me back to the looting scenes in the first episode and how they made me realise that there's a lot of healing that still needs to be done from those eight days in July.

Just as the fictional community of Tembisa need to start healing and putting together the pieces after turning against each other.

Watching “The Republic” does not give me comfort. It pains me.

Because it's a biting and necessary critique on our country, forcing us to look at the cesspool the country and its leaders have become.

We may joke about it, but South Africa is indeed a crime scene.

The people who have been put in power simply do not care enough for the electorate they claim to want to serve.

There's a scene in the third episode where MK is speaking to the media and he grabs a woman who has just learnt that the grocer she worked for is shutting down.

He uses her emotion to create a narrative that he cares for the people and wants to find the perpetrators of the looting.

Bongile Mantsai, who plays MK, is brilliant in the scene (when is he not, though?) and I can't help but be filled with rage at MK's virtue signalling. He is playing to the gallery, with a pseudo-presidential campaign-like speech. It's sickening.

The political events of the past month in South Africa have left me with the same feeling.

It is sickening that those in power are busy doing all they can to stroke their egos and write open letters that do nothing for the many South Africans who need action with regards to service delivery, job creation, health care and fully resourced schools.

I wish “The Republic” was not inspired by the mess that is our country. I wish it was something the creators dreamt up and thought would be an interesting story to tell. However, it is not.

I wish it wasn't a necessary story to tell, but that's the role of art – to reflect and document honestly what is happening in our society at a certain period in time.

And they have captured it as honestly as they can. Hence it’s traumatic to watch.

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