Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The area around the court is barricaded with barbed wire and heavily armed policemen are all over. It is quite a struggle for the law enforcers to separate the opposing groups of protestors from each other. On the one side of the fence there is a resonating call, “Justice should be done: Life sentence for Tsunami.” On the other side the call is different: “Innocent till proven guilty: Tsunami is a victim of trial by the media.” Most people in both camps do not know the real name of the man now popularly and notoriously known as Tsunami nor can they point the man if they see him walking in the street.

All that they have is a picture painted in their minds when they read in the newspapers and hear television and radio reports on the onstage and offstage deeds and misdeeds of Tsunami, the hero turned villain. You see, in the play of the same name, young girls aged between eighteen and twenty-four years receive telephone calls from a young woman purporting to be calling from a recruitment agency for some secretarial companies that are affirmative action and equity employers. She\ he then sets an appointment with the girls and meets them at the designated spot. From there s\he takes them to the outskirts of the township where she\he claims that the car from the employment agency will pick them. Days thereafter the girls are found raped and dead, with one lacerated breast and a grotesquely huge T-shaped wound on the other. The serial killer character wears a wig and a thick lipstick that gives him \her a Naomi Campbell look, and s\he has the same shapes. The movement is convincing and so is the voice. The audience never gets to see the face, as the actual rape and murder scenes are not portrayed in the play. All that the audience hears are hysterical and anguished screams and mad groans, gruesome writhing and the gnashing of teeth. Thereafter they see tattered clothes and floods of blood and hear the gruesome details of the murder as explained by other characters in the play. As the events in the play takes place at the time of the news of the tsunami disaster in Asia and some parts of Africa, the other characters in the play referred to the serial killer character as Tsunami.

The real-life re-play of the “tsunami serial rape-killings” took place three months after the tsunami disaster. By that time, the play has been previewed to quite a few audiences at various places in the Vaal Triangle Area. Within the group the name Tsunami had come to be associated with the fiery and fearsome character as well as the public-shy actor who portrayed it so well. Then our group was hit by a Tsunami. It started with the girl who performs the part of the woman who kills Tsunami in the play receiving a call from a young lady purporting to be a theatre director. She claimed that she had seen our member in performance and was keen to include her in her cast that was about to go to Germany on a cultural exchange program. They set up an appointment to meet each other at the outskirt of Zamdela, near the Sasol industrial area from where they’ll drive to Johannesburg for the auditions.

That was the last time she was seen alive. Her body was found a week latter in the same conditions as the victims of Tsunami. As we were still trying to make sense of the story, a young girl and a teenage boy who are part of our cast were found in similar conditions. And then it was three high school young girls and one teenage boy. People were shocked. Some suspected that they were victims of “Mzekezeke”, a serial rapist who lured his victims with promises of jobs and was caught red-handed in a balaclava while raping a kid he had duped into believing that he was the hooded Kwaito star whose stage-name is Mzekezeke. They speculated that “Mzekezeke” was enraged that Tsunami was actually a disguised take at him. But it turned out that ‘Mzekezeke’ was in jail at the time Tsunami stroke.

Township gossip had it that the fellow in prison was the wrong guy. The said the DNA test had revealed that his semen does not match with that found in the girl who was raped. The story was that the real “Mzekezeke” was outside and he was the one responsible for the Tsunami rape-killings. But then the original “Mzekezeke” never raped males. Others suggested that there were multiples of serial rapists and killers taking advantage of the “Mzekezeke\ Tsunami saga.” At the end of the day, “Mzekezeke” was no longer talked about. Tsunami had taken over. True to the tradition of “the show must go on”, we at the Biko Community Theater Project continued with our Tsunami project, staging benefits shows for the victims of the other tsunami…. HIV\AIDS. Then oneday the police came to our rehearsal room and arrested Tsunami. Some of the cast members tried to obstruct the police, while others just shook their heads in disbelief and a few actually murmured that they have been silently wondering whether Tsunami is indeed the Tsunami. I intervened and pleaded with the group members to let the police do their job and wait for the court decision before they allow the issue to divide the group or to put us at odds with the law and community.

Now I stand in the middle of the two opposing and protesting camps. Belonging to none and still confused as to what to believe and what not to. But I am one of the few people who know the young man and the face that now bear the name Tsunami. Actually I am the one who created the character called Tsunami and his \ her namesake, Tsunami the play. I should rather say I am the one who planted the seeds because I only came up with the concept and facilitated the experimental workshopping of the play collectively by the group and allowed each character to explore various ways of developing his or her character. From the beginning I was fascinated by the passion with which our man launched onto the project of constructing and developing his character. He went to all court proceedings where there was a murder or rape case, kept press clippings of stories on serial killers, took out tons upon tons of documents from the internet and watched every movie he could get on the subject of serial killers and serial rapists. He had interviews with police and psychologists who are experts on serial killers and also talked friends and relatives of the serial killers. His idea was that to be able to portray a character, in this case a serial killer, you do not just have to understand his background and his psychology, but have to also get into his boots, share his dreams and nightmares, fantasies and fears and hopes, wrap yourself in his mind and soul and see the world from his point of view. That he managed to do that is beyond doubt.

This naturally humble and cool and collected youngster became a bloodthirsty monster on stage. The fire in his eyes and the rage in his voice as well as the physical force with which he expressed it scared even fellow actors and left the audiences spellbound by the beast that man is capable of becoming. He excelled in the court scene, where he related the story of Tsunami, how he was born to an eighteen-year old girl who abandoned for the life of pleasure and left him in the care of her blind and aged granny, how his ex-convict uncle used to sodomize him and how he was once gang-raped by a group of older girls after they found him doing to their sibling what his uncle used to do to him. Overnight he became the hero of the township theater scene. Everyone wished they could see the actor playing the tsunami character. But he made sure that after every performance he went off stage to join the other crew of the Biko Community Theatre Project. Off course, offstage Tsunami was always a closed book. He was quite and self-evasive and seldom spoke about himself or his family and childhood. As a hair-dresser and cross-dresser, he was most of the time in the company of girls, and was what the Mzansi ladies refer to as “a dish” (or a gorgeous piece of meet as Queen Moroka of Generations would put it). Yet he shied away from romantic relations with girls.

One would have easily assumed he was homo-sexual if he did not display such an antagonistic attitude towards gays, and verbally abused those who mistakenly tried to charm their way into his life. He openly declared that one thing he agreed with Mugabe was the fact that gays and lesbians are worse than baboons. That was about all that we the members of group knew and could tell the police and the court about our colleague. We were equally shocked to hear the story related by his mentally deranged granny in court that he was actually a victim of sexual molestation when he was a child. She claimed that Tsunami’s mother gave birth to him at the tender age of fourteen and died in the process and that his aunt and legal guardian used him as a sex slave, as her husband had become sexually impotent after being confined to a wheelchair by a car accident. But how reliable can the evidence of an insane and old woman be? As much as Tsunami was enigma to us in the group, it is much more difficult to find the actor who will get into the boots of the Tsunami character the way he did. Or shall we proceed with the play?

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