Isidingo’s new family, the Zondiles, are going through a rough time, as Noluthando Meje, who plays Zukisa, tells Buhle Mbonambi
When Isidingo began in 1998, it was a show that had different classes of people living in the same town. That’s when Jack van Onselen, the mine manager, was one of the richest people in Horizon Deep. There was Derek Nyathi who was also well off. But most of the characters were working class or poor, like the Matabane family.
Sixteen years later, almost everyone on the soap is middle class or wealthy, with Barker Haines and the Sibeko family being Horizon Deep’s resident millionaires.
It’s no secret that Isidingo was starting to feel off. What viewers missed was the small town family – the struggling family we can root for, like we rooted for the Matabane family and some of the tenants who lived at the Bullers’s house. Watching the exploits of Haines and the Sibeko family was becoming boring. The addition of the struggling Zondile family to the soapie is a welcome move.
Noluthando Meje plays Zukisa Zondile, the wife of Sizwe (Jet Novuka). They moved to Horizon Deep from Port Elizabeth in search of jobs. Luckily, Zukisa found a job as a maid for Katlego Sibeko and is bringing home the bacon. Her husband is unemployed, which is causing friction between them. The changing relationship dynamic between them makes this the role Noluthando loves to portray.
When she answers the phone, she’s on set and is getting her hair blow-dried. She has an afro on the show and with Zukisa being a poor domestic worker; she has undergone a make-under to look like a Plain Jane. “I love it,” she says. “It’s like playing an ugly duckling character. You know she’ll transform into a beautiful swan.”
However, Zukisa’s main concern is that her husband doesn’t have a job and she is the sole breadwinner. “It’s a big responsibility, especially because she’s a very traditional woman and her husband is her king. So, with her being the breadwinner in the family, she’s afraid that things might change, in that her husband has to now depend on her, which is not how a traditional woman sees things.”
It can easily play into making Sizwe feel emasculated, she said.
“It’s not her intention to make him feel like he can’t provide for the family, but he can’t help but feel emasculated.” But she realises that times are changing and she also needs him to support her.
“There’s really only so much she can take. She misses their child, whom they left behind when they moved to the Deep. While she loves, respects and supports her husband, she also needs him to find employment because she knows that being jobless makes him feel belittled and it could derail |their relationship”
Starring alongside Jet Novuka, is one of the things that excites Noluthando about her role. “It’s my first time working with him and he’s really good… I’m learning so much from him.”
While Noluthando is an actress-turned-singer, many people believe the opposite. We first saw her on the first season of Idols, where she showed off her vocal chops and made it to the Top 100 before being eliminated because she was too young. She entered twice more, with the third time making it as far as the Top 10.
“Ah, Idols was fun. No one in my family even knew that I could sing. I remember I was in the kitchen and my mother heard me sing and she suggested I audition for Idols… I didn’t think I stood a chance. It was a crazy experience, one that I truly loved, but acting came first.”
Noluthando has been in the industry since she was five. “My first TV role was on a German series with Connie Ferguson and Florence Masebe. It was a cameo… I’ve been on the British series, Silent Witness, Home Affairs, Stokvel and more… It’s weird |that people think I started acting recently.”
While starring in Isidingo, she is also seen on SABC 2’s Swartwater.
“I loved being on Swartwater. It’s such a great drama. Well written with amazing actors and the story is very dark. My character, Faith, is very ambitious and playing her actually prepared me for the role of Noluthando. Both of them are ambitious and want to do things and make changes in their lives.”
She promises major shake-ups, especially with the Sibeko’s involved in their lives. “The Sibekos love drama and man, the drama just keeps coming.”