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Vusi Jim Makwela famously known for his role as Makgorometja on the now defunct SABC’s Isidingo, is without a doubt talented and definitely one of our country’s youngest and finest actors. Hailing from Kabete, Mpumalanga a village he calls home; this is where his acting career started. But who is Vusi J. Makwela, The Village Mag sat down with the man to find out who he is and where it all started for him. He shares with us some of his highlights and challenges he has faced in the industry so far.

Mothibi Setlhanka

23 August 2020

Vusi J. Makwela popurlarly known as Mkgorometja on the defunct popular SABC soapie Isidingo.

Born in Kwaggafontien in Mpumalanga on the 05th of December 1989, his family then relocated to Kabete/Koedoespoort when he was five (5) years old, “unfortunately I am not married” jokes the man known for his funny character. The year 2007 is when he started studying performing arts, this was at the time when he was still in high school, when Paul Rapetsoa from the Paul Rapetsoa Institute of Dramatic Arts (PRIDA) visited his village to scout for raw talent – people in his village referred and recommended Vusi to Paul because he was well known for his ability to act. This is when the man who does not consider himself a celebrity started learning more about what the performing arts industry requires, the sacrifices and hardships one faces to get to the top. He completed his studies in 2011.

There is an English proverb “curiosity killed a cat” which effectively means being inquisitive may lend one into trouble, but this was not the case in Vusi’s case, growing up without a TV at home he used to go watch it at his neighbors’ and one of the questions that used to harbor around his mind was why there were few people who spoke Sepedi on television. He wanted to bring change to that. Few people do not know that Vusi upon completion of his studies in 2011 worked in theater with JD Productions working on a production called Over My Dead Body. He wanted to get on TV and speak his home language and in 2016 he achieved that after landing his first major television role as a miner on Isidingo. Prior to that he joined Generations: The Legacy as a background (extra) actor working as a policeman, earning R150.00 per episode.

While working as an extra on Isidingo, he auditioned for the role of Makgorometja “the next day because I did not sleep I arrived late (at the auditions)” this is when he was busy practicing & memorizing the script, he arrived 45 minutes later. Thankfully upon arrival, auditions were still underway, his turn came and he nailed it, three (3) weeks from the date of the first audition he got the call to come back and audition again but he arrived late, this time as a result of public transport challenges. This time he did a dialogue scene with the legendary Audrey Poo who helped calm Vusi’s nerves, again he nailed the audition in two takes.

Makgorometja, Sibiya and Gatanga played by Makwela, Mtshweni and Ketlele on the SABC’s popular soapie Isidingo
Image: Internet

Because of the nature of the industry, after the audition he did not tell anyone, he remembers that day he premiered on TV was on a Friday while in a taxi heading back home. He was not informed when the scene was going to be aired, it was through phone calls and social media notifications that he was alerted. He watched the episode on the Sunday omnibus to see what the hype was all about. He kept working as a background artist getting more dialogue lines throughout the year 2016, earning his R150.00 per episode. Hard work, perseverance and patience helped him to get through and in mid-2017 the character of Makgorometja was established.

Being an actor puts a huge mental strain on everyone “what people see on TV is a final product, there have been cuts” you have to use your mind to memorize the lines and follow the instructions given to you by the directors, and that itself puts a huge strain your entire body. When asked what he loved the most about working Isidingo, the short-buffy actor said he loved everything about that production, the love and sense of belonging he received from everyone was unmatched.

Everyone knew their roles, they were professionals and hard workers. His favorite co-workers on the production was Thulani Mtsweni (who played Shadrack Bhekisizwe Sibiya) and Amos Ketlele (who played the role of Samuel Gatanga Masilo).

As The Village Mag, we certainly hope that someday the South African government will put laws into place which will protect the livelihoods of actors, this is because the likes of Vusi Makwela aka Makgorometja who are loved countrywide for the work they did on that soapie are now out of work and nowhere to turn to for financial assistance. Performing artists do not have Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and other insurances guarding against unemployment.

When asked how the news about the canning of Isidingo came about, he told us he received the bad news on Sunday the 24th of November 2020 via Twitter while he was at the FNB stadium, Johannesburg attending the National Prayer organized by the Motsepe Foundation. At the time Isidingo was trending at number three on the Twitter trends. Before the news broke out, obviously the producers knew about it months prior and did not tell the actors because “but they thought they could turn the situation around”, unfortunately they could not and eventually have conceded and officially told the entire crew. The last three months of the production was very difficult but as professionals they had a duty to perform and give the people what they wanted.

We wish him and other people who worked on the Isidingo production all the best of luck during this trying times, and judging from what we saw then; they will certainly land something soon. Click on the audio below to hear more about his stories and what is it he does during his spare time.