When Sizwe Dlamini’s hard-earned pension becomes part of the collateral damage in the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank, he and his wife Martha have no choice but to move in with their young upwardly mobile daughter Thuli and her daughter Sihle.
Thuli then has to use the salary she used to spend on a family of two to look after a family of five. And this, in a nutshell, is one of the many manifestations of the concept of black tax and the premise for BET Africa’s latest sitcom.
As part of their commitment to producing must-watch local content, BET Africa has just launched its first-ever locally co-produced 13-part sitcom titled Black Tax which premiered on Tuesday, 21 January 2020 at 9.30pm CAT.
Starring Jo-Anne Reyneke in the lead role of Thuli Dlamini, the sitcom explores the concepts of family, living in modern-day South Africa, financial literacy and the unique space most middle-class African people now find themselves in.
According to BET, Thuli now has to deal with the unspoken law that dictates she pay back the community of people that helped her get to where she is by accommodating them all in her modest suburban townhouse when they fall on hard times.
The series’ cast features a well-rounded mix of experienced and new comedic talent, seasoned actors and fresh faces to bring light to the experience of most middle-class African families.
Mandla Jwara heads up the family in his role as Sizwe (Thuli’s father), while fellow industry veteran Clementine Mosimane stars alongside him as his wife Martha (Thuli’s mother).
Popular comedians Jason Goliath and Sne Dladla also feature alongside actor Daniel Janks.
The comedians on the team form an important part of the show but admit that they had to adjust their approach to the roles in order to bring their characters to life without leaving fans feeling like they were just watching their favourite real-life comedians playing at acting.
This exercise was most important for Dladla, who boasts a signature style of comedy and background as a theatre actor.
The family is rounded off by up-and-coming talents Mamodibe Ramodibe and Bahle Mashini, who stars as Sihle (Thuli’s woke, millennial daughter) and Zakhele (Thuli’s rural and highly superstitious) nephew.
Speaking to the Citizen about her own experiences with black tax at the comedy’s premiere, Reyneke says it is those same moments in her life that she turned to when trying to get into the correct headspace for her role as Thuli.
Reyneke speaks about her new role with such enthusiasm as she is often used to playing darker, more serious roles. Although there is no overt attempt at being comedic in this role, it is her role as a serious regular character that Reyneke feels lends gravitas to the comedy in the situations she finds herself in.
“It’s really her reality… The situation that she finds herself in is what drew me to her because that copy and paste is my situation,” said Reyneke.
“And people keep asking me ‘do you approve of black tax?’ Yes! Because I want to see my mother live a content life before she passes and have it be done by me. If she couldn’t do it for herself, and rather than investing in herself, she invested in me then I want to have her see her investment paid back. So Thuli was just telling my story ” she added.
“I wish she was funnier but she’s not and in her not being funny, she’s funny.”
A select group of members of the media were treated to the first two episodes of the show and it set the perfect tone for what looks like a successful production while leaving enough questions unanswered to keep one watching.
Chief among these unanswered questions is whether or not Thuli, who is a big fan of BET show Being Mary Jane, will get a love interest.
“You know, Thuli is praying! Every day she’s on her knees. She prays for world peace and a man,” laughs Reyneke without giving away too much about what lies in Thuli’s romantic future.
Dlaldla concludes the interview by sharing that he hopes, in watching this show, that people feel represented seeing as black tax affects such a large portion of the population.
“It’s a good thing to know that you’re not alone in it. And in seeing it, hopefully, there’s some kind of shift so that in seeing it, we can do something about it so that it can no longer be. Black tax goes beyond family, it goes to jobs as well where people of colour are often paid less than people of a lighter hue.”
Black Tax is a co-production between RousHouse productions, the department of trade and industry, Showmax, and BET Africa. The show will air on DStv Channel 129 every Tuesday at 9.30pm and will be available Showmax straight after its broadcast.
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