Phathu Makwarela is “predictable”

Having written or produced the most of the trending telenovelas for Mnet, he is the hottest scriptwriter/producer in Mzansi right now and, according to his favourite quote, Phathutshedzo Makwarela currently holds the crown.

Phathu owns primetime TV

In fact, primetime viewing – the 7pm to 930pm weekday slot on DSTV – might as well be renamed the Phathu hour.

7:00pm – The River on Mzansi Magic

7:30pm – Gomora on Mzansi Magic

8:00pm – The River on 1Magic

9:00pm – The Queen

One of the biggest misconceptions about the award winning screenwriter is that he works alone. Phathu is in fact half of a two-man tag team which includes the tall Gwydion Beynon. Together, the little-and-large duo not only make Tshedza Pictures but they are also the muse from which their company logo is created.

Phathu Makwarela
Beynon and Makwarela make Tshedza pictures

Of late, though, the multi award winners have come under criticism for recycling ideas. Award winner and bestselling author of the novel Bare: The Blesser’s Game, Jackie Phamotse, referred to Makwarela and Beynon as “predictable”.

Unfortunately, Makwarela and Beynon were not reachable for comment. But are Tshedza Pictures scripts really predictable?

Phamotse’s reason for labelling the screenwriting twosome as “predictable” is the pattern of deaths at all Khoza weddings on the Ferguson Films produced telenovela, The Queen.

Death at a wedding

In the pilot episode of the same show written by Makwarela and business partner Gwydion Beynon, the patriarch, Mzi Khoza (played by veteran, Treasure Tshabalala) is shot dead by Mogapi Maake, who was hired by Harriet and her brother, Kgosi. At the next wedding, Lindi, Shaka’s bride, is killed in a shootout with Diamond Mabuza. Shaka’s next bride was lucky to escape unharmed when Diamond Mabuza bombed the boat on which he (Shaka) wedded Mmabatho. Gift Mabuza, Diamond’s own nephew and Roy Maake left the scene in body bags. Because two occurrences is merely a coincidence, and three is a pattern, nobody expected Makwarela and Beynon to kill anyone else at the next Khoza wedding.

But this is precisely what happened. Kamina, Diamond Mabuza’s spy, died at the hands of Harriet on the third Khoza wedding. Last week, Kagiso’s second attempt at marriage, Siyanda, the bride ended up in intensive care unit after tumbling from the first floor balcony. It is not yet clear whether Beynon and Makwarela will finish her off or the character still has shelf life on The Queen. The viewers seemed to love her. With uncertainty over Dineo Langa’s contract situation, there is need for another female supporting role in the Khoza family, which currently has something of gender imbalance. There was a valedictory tone in Cindy Mahlangu’s tweet on the day of Siyanda’s wedding, although her post could have been to help create a future plot twist.

Further analysis will show that even on The River, Beynon and Makwarela torpedoed the Dikana wedding, when Andile, who is gay, chose to slash his wrists rather than go through with an arranged marriage to Faith.

It is not only the disastrous weddings of the Khoza family which seem to point to a distinct pattern in Tshedza Pictures scripts.

Woman on top

The relationship between Makwarela, Beynon and Ferguson Films can be traced to the riveting four season series, Rockville, which aired on Mzansi Magic. Makwarela and his cohort Beynon appear to favour a leading female. Mavis (played by Connie Ferguson) is a widow struggling to keep two adult children on the straight and narrow. Oupa gets into trouble with the local gangster after he is caught sleeping with his wife. Lindi joins an upmarket brothel where she is the prime earner – a black diamond – for Jackson Bogatsu (Shona Ferguson) who answers to a ruthless female boss.

Beynon and Makwarela, who met while working on Muvhango, also wrote the script for the film Sebonelo, in which Tsholofelo Matshaba plays a young wife whose husband is killed by poisoning and she suddenly has to take control of his construction company. Later she discovers the killer to be his business partner who she kills by the same bottle of poison. She also has to fight for control of the business against the husband’s sister and his son from an earlier relationship. It has to be said, this sounds a little similar to The Queen where Harriet has to become drug baroness and CEO of Khoza Trucking while at the same time fighting an inheritance war against her late husband’s siblings and stepson, Shaka.

The Republic, winner of Best Scriptwriting SAFTA features a female President, continuing in the favoured theme of powerful women.

The River, which stars Sindi Dlathu is also stitched in Tshedza Pictures pattern. In the first episode, Mokoena, a vocal mine worker, is killed by Lindiwe. The River’s similarity to The Queen and Sebonelo is the conspicuousness of a leading lady who dominates or replaces her husband. In The River, Zweli Dikana is head of the house only in name. The show, the mine, the entire story is centred on Lindiwe and her diamond mine. Makwarela and Beynon also co-wrote the script for The Herd with Lebogang Mogashoa (the head writer). MaMngadi kills her husband, Nyambose to take over his cattle ranch.

Gomora is cut from the same fabric. Makwarela and Beynon quickly kill off the patriarch, Mbongeni right at the start of the show – as they did with Mzi Khoza on The Queen – leaving Thathi to fend for her two children, with the assistance of her crime boss mother, Mam Sonto. The pattern is self-evident: kill off the alpha male (either figuratively or in actuality), go with a leading woman, preferably one who is widowed and do your best to ruin every single wedding. Another unchanging ingredient of Tshedza creations is pitting rich versus poor – Jackson Bogatsu versus Mavis (Rockville), Lindiwe versus Refilwe shack dwellers (The River), Harriet versus Tembisa residents (The Queen), the wealthy Mthethwas versus the cattle stealing Lwandle and Sandton versus Alexandra (Gomora).

Speaking to City Press, exactly a year ago – 9th of June 2019 – Makwarela stated:

“I think South Africans really want TV that reflects who they are and I think that’s the ingredient that makes a successful show.”

Nowhere else in the world are the wealthy more surrounded by poverty. South Africa tops the income disparity charts, according to the World Bank. When Beynon and Makwarela repeatedly contrast rich with poor, it seems predictable, but it is a reflection of their reality; affluent Bloubosrand and Kya Sands, middle class Primrose and slummy Makause, idyllic Lake Michelle and tin shacks of Masiphumelele, all existing side by side. And, predictable or not, the startling contrast of luxury juxtaposed with squalor makes for interesting storytelling.

The preference for female alpha over male lead is, perhaps, a writer’s search for novelty. After all, so much has already been written about rich, powerful men and so little about women running the world.

Still, we have not arrived at the answer to the question; are Gwydion Beynon and Phathu Makwarela predictable?

How Tshedza create characters

Nobody saw the resurrection of Jerry Maake when he died in the house fire on The Queen. And only a psychic could have predicted Diamond Mabuza’s death by poisoning after Harriet had played peacemaker between the two warring families. The River constantly serves up numerous plot twists; not even the most astute viewer expected Cheree to survive being mauled by a lion.

The characterisation of lead characters by Makwarela and Beynon is nothing short of brilliant. Brutus (The Queen) drinks nonstop and eats through the entire Food Lovers Market stock of apples. Jerry Maake’s OCD makes him open and shut his briefcase several times before he gets to work and Shaka had the entire country saying “balance me real quickly.”

Lindiwe Dlamini (The River) wears a lopsided sneer when she is plotting destruction of her foes and her nephew, Zolani, speaks only Kasi lingo, even when praying to God. Honourable mention goes to Cobra, a high school dropout who loves big English words.

Gomora has generous servings of bling, violence and love scenes which most viewers enjoy. But the most memorable element is Jomo’s laugh. Makwarela and Beynon made an ugly laugh trendy.

Are Gwydion Beynon and Phathu Makwarela predictable? You decide, because I must leave you now. It’s almost 7:00pm, prime time, also known as Phathu and Beynon hour on DSTV.


My pen is capped


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Video from Mzansi Magic YouTube


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