Cape Town - He’s not your average uncle. His advice is often quirky and sometimes bizarre, his phrases come from a dictionary not yet invented and his antics frequently leave his onscreen family shocked.
But throw it all together into one big pot of madness and magic and what do you get? Mzansi’s favourite malume (uncle). The vibrant Brutus – played by Themba Ndaba (52) – has been a fan favourite since The Queen premiered on Mzansi Magic in August 2016 and his popularity has grown steadily as his escapades get weirder, his tongue sharper and his wit quicker.
DRUM takes a look at what makes him the best and baddest uncle on the small screen.
WHO IS HE?
With his signature toothpick in his mouth and a drink in his hand, Brutus is one guy who isn’t afraid to go head-to-head with matriarch Harriet (Connie Ferguson).
Nothing is ever straightforward with him, but Brutus is always loyal to his family in his own way and never fails to make them laugh. He’s true to himself, immensely proud of his Zulu heritage and determined to keep his family legacy alive – no matter the cost.
HIS OWN LINGO
He’s been nicknamed Shakespeare by fans because of the poetic language he often uses and the special “Brutus speak” he adopts in every episode.
With a vocabulary that can rival former Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela’s, he sometimes has fans scratching their heads in search of the meaning behind his terms. Some include: Butchery: his code word for where a man can go to pay to sleep with a woman.
Qoqo Chanel: his pronunciation of Coco Chanel. Marge: his term for a magistrate. Insta-Twittergram: a social-media app he alone is on.
BACK FROM THE DEAD
Like any self-respecting soapie villain, Brutus never goes easily into that good night. He’s been shot at and blown up and is still standing. In August fans threatened to cancel their DStv subscriptions when it looked like their favorite family member had died.
It all started when a bomb planted by Diamond (the family’s nemesis) exploded during Shaka (Sthembiso Khoza) and Mathambo’s (Motsoaledi Setumo) romantic yacht wedding. Viewers’ worst fears were confirmed as a police investigation found Brutus, along with two others, had died during the explosion.
Fans weren’t into it, with some saying “the show is dead”. But it wasn’t long before diehard Brutus emerged, in dramatic fashion, at his own funeral. When questioned about how he survived, he had a very Brutus explanation: he had found a piece of wood to float on after surviving the blast.
He told his family how he’d wrestled crocodiles and even claimed he’d seen Jesus.
“Nga bona uJesu la ngathi, ‘Jesu ngithathe’. Wathi, ‘Cha dlula, Khoza’ (I saw Jesus and I said to Him, ‘Take me Lord’ and He said, ‘No, go back, Khoza’).” And back he came.
TRADITION & CULTURE
Despite being in a multicultural family, Brutus is a proud Zulu man who hardly shifts from his beliefs. When he found himself in a wheelchair following the boat explosion, doctors told him they were unsure he would walk again.
Rather than turn to the professionals, he consulted the one doctor who never let him down: his favourite sangoma, Ndlovu. Following his “death” it was revealed uMalume was a polygamist as two women came forward claiming to be married to him.
Dolly (Tumi Morake) emerged during the preparations for Brutus’ funeral and claimed she was his wife, even brandishing an “unabridged” marriage certificate. That left Lungile reeling, as she announced she’s Brutus’ wife and has six kids with him.
THE ADVICE GIVER
As an elder it’s often expected Brutus will drop pearls of wisdom. He dutifully obliges – but the words that come out of his mouth aren’t always particularly measured.
“Uyabona wena Gracious wa ka Mabuza? La emhlabeni noma bengati huwe wena vo osele la emhlabeni, ngamane ngi bulawe yi ndlala (You know what, Gracious Mabuza? In this world, even if they say you are the only woman left in this world I would rather starve)”– speaking to Gracious (Rami Chuene).
“What did Mkhathini do? What was he thinking? Was he drinking when he slept with your mom and with Harriet, when they conceived you and Kagiso? No man! This alcohol is no good. Don’t drink and make a baby!” – berating Shaka for not carrying his gun on the night he was assaulted by Gracious, who had her gun.
“Sesi, uyabona lombuzo ke mele ubuze uJesu (Well, that question can only be answered by Jesus)” – following his return from the dead when Harriet questioned him regarding his marriage to Dolly.
THE MAN BEHIND BRUTUS
Themba was born in Soweto and lived in Swaziland as a child before moving to Zimbabwe to study business at Harare Polytechnic. The acting bug bit him in 1989 when he was helping to teach English to school dropouts at a drama school in Daveyton, east of Joburg.
“I found myself delving into the drama workshops. It happened that one of the characters left the cast of a play that was being rehearsed and my uncle, Smal Ndaba, said I should take the part ‘for a while’. I haven’t looked back.”
He’s been a constant feature on local screens since the ’90s, appearing on shows such as Soul City and Generations – and who can forget him in the show Streaks, where he played a gay hairdresser with platinum-blonde hair who loved the phrase “deedee, dahling”.
When a fan recently posted a video of Themba on Streaks he reflected it was, “one of the most challenging roles I had to portray. I enjoyed it”.
And while playing Brutus isn’t always fun and games, he loves it – even when Brutus went so far as talking about disowning his son, Bheki (Robert Mpisi), after learning he’s gay.
Speaking to Isolezwe about his role, Themba explained the job of an actor is to make a character believable.
“When I act I’m expressing the character’s personal history, things that he likes and dislikes,” he told the newspaper.
“It’s true there are some people who think the way Brutus does and it’s important that an actor shows the true colours those people without fear.”
He’s nothing like the characters he plays, he told Move magazine. He just immerses himself in each role.
“Art is about passion, practise, observation and being open to constantly learning. There would be no point in doing something without excellence.”
And his many fans would agree: he’s an excellent malume.