The side of Israel Matseke-Zulu you never knew

He's a natural-born leader who mentors kids in his spare time and chooses his criminal roles for a reason.

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:45 PM  | Israel Matseke Zulu  | Top of The

The side of Isreal Makoe

Speaking to Katlego Maboe on this morning's episode of SABC 3 morning show Expresso, Israel Matseke-Zulu (formerly Makoe) revealed that he is a motivational speaker and teaches youngsters around the country about acting, singing, musical performance and drama as a way to keep them out of trouble. 

Maboe revealed how much of an impact Matseke-Zulu's Yizo Yizo character had on him growing up before asking why he took such a different direction with his role in the upcoming film, Beyond The River.

To date, Matseke-Zulu has played: 

  • Prison gang boss Boyza in Yizo Yizo The Return
  • Ghetto Professor (aka GP) in Gaz’lam
  • Tsotsi’s father in Tsotsi
  • A gangster called Joburg in Four Corners 
  • Gang leader Skroef, in the award-winning iNumber Number
  •  The Gusheshe-loving village villain, Mugza, in Hard To Get
  • and Jakes Masilo, the cold, ruthless and dangerous right-hand-man to Z'bondiwe's super-villain, Killer
Although he has dabbled as Zone 14's deranged prophet, Uncle Israel and Thishiwe's abusive, blind father on Isthunzi, his upcoming role in Beyond the River is more of a departure from the type-cast and more of a reflection of who he truly is.  

Beyond the River is a film about a poor boy (named Duma played by Lemogang Tsipa) from rural Soweto who finds new meaning to life through canoeing. Together he and his unlikely partner overcome personal differences and challenges to form a strong bond and tackle the legendary Dusi canoe race.


Matseke-Zulu will play the role of Duma's mentor. Now, if you've grown up watching Matseke-Zulu as many of us have, mentorship isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about him (as evidenced by the aforementioned list of notable roles). 

Speaking to Sowetan, Matseke-Zulu actually said he has not yet grown tired of playing the gangster as he believes that those roles provide him with a platform to deliver a message to the masses - hopefully a message that puts viewers, especially young men, off the idea of committing crimes. 

"My role in the film changed the game for me. It made me realise how good an actor I am. People will realise after seeing the film that I can't only play gangsters. The question that I commonly get asked is 'don't you get tired of being typecast as a gangster?' My answer is 'no'. Don't get me wrong, I can play any character, but I understand where my strength lies. You can't take a goalkeeper and make them a striker."

It was actually that type of role that gave him both his big break into acting and a head-start on his journey as a mentor. 

It is common knowledge that Matseke-Zulu was once involved in criminal activity which landed him an eight-year jail sentence but it was during his time in jail that he formed his own prison theatre group called the Abanqobi Drama Group. His work with said group the caught the attention of the Yizo Yizo directors during one of their visits to prisons as part of a Yizo Yizo road show. 

In another display of a natural knack for leadership, Matseke-Zulu doubled up as a script consultant and role developer in both iNumber Number and Z’bondiwe while starring in both projects. 

In fact, in an interview with City Press, iNumber Number writer-director Donovan Marsh described Matseke-Zulu as "one of those rare actors who has a way of motivating fellow cast members."

Israel Matseke-Zulu in Alex

He even took that talent back to the hood and combined with his street cred as a Gomora-native and one of TV's most prolific gangsters, started the Alexandra township theatre group, Ishoshovi

According to Mahala, the theatre group aims to "educate youngsters about the hazards of crime, HIV and the plethora of other social ills that poor South Africans inevitably have to deal with, as well as inspire them to dream big and work hard to make those dreams a reality."

Therefore, seeing as mentorship comes so naturally to Matseke-Zulu, we can't wait to see how that translates on the big screen when the film finally opens in cinemas. 

You can watch the Beyond the River trailer here: 

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