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fierce gentleman Actor Christopher Kubheka (December 9 1968 to June 12 2017) in his seminal role as Yizo Yizo’s GunmanPHOTO: the bomb shelter archive
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Phumlani S Langa
His contribution to South African culture is undeniable. He represented the raw voice of the township youth that we grew up identifying with. He represented us.
Reports that the 48-year-old Christopher Jabu Kubheka had hanged himself with a tie at his home in Soshanguve on Monday came as an unexpected blow to those close to him.
The two TV roles that cemented Kubheka’s artistic immortality were as Gunman in the seminal and controversial high school drama Yizo Yizo and as Bazooka on the long-running kasi football drama Zone 14.
On set he was part of the glue that held a production together. Teboho Mahlatsi directed Kubheka in Yizo Yizo and Thabang Moleya directed him in Zone 14. They shared their memories with us.
“It is still such a shock and a terrible loss. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but I was thinking that it would be great to work with him again. He was a dedicated artist. When we started at Yizo Yizo, the character Gunman was just a nameless character on a page. He gave it the life it needed, which was natural for him as he had a large spirit.
“Back then I was a young, inexperienced director. Chris held my hand through the early pressures. He was always well-prepared, which made my life easier. He was always pushing, adding suggestions and options to what we were doing. It has been a while since we were all together as a cast and now, 20 years later, perhaps this is a chance to do something. If only there had been better circumstances for us to reunite.
“I never saw this part of Chris, he always seemed so positive to me. He was the kind of guy you would hear enter the building long before you saw him. I would love to preserve this man’s legacy.”
“I met him on [the set of] Zone 14. I worked on this show for two years. I have always tried to have good links with my cast as a good director should. Chris was always smiling. He was a phenomenal actor who could inject parts of himself into a character. He would give everything to a role, commit completely and could always make everyone laugh, which made working that much more enjoyable.
“This news came as a shock to us all. These shows we made involved being a family both on and off the screen. I’m going to miss his contribution to the art.
“He didn’t have time for false pretences. He was himself, he was real. Being able to stay real like he did will always result in you being regarded as a good guy, and that he certainly was.
“I hadn’t seen him lately, so I can’t really say what was happening in his life. This industry is tough, though. Perhaps he was struggling to get work.
“A fond memory I have of Chris is when he and then newcomer Muzi Mathabela had a fight scene. Chris was so patient and giving of his knowledge. I will always remember how selfless he was.”
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