Botsotso Ensemble – Dop, Dope and Despots – Phuza Lockdown
Botsotso Ensemble – Dop, Dope and Despots – Fantasies
Botsotso Ensemble – Dop, Dope and Despots – No excusess
The key topics of the series are indicated by the title, with each episode telling a ‘stand alone’ and very different story about forms and means of addiction; the first, being alcohol, the second, hard drugs, and the third, the psychological and ethical diseases of megalomania and kleptomania.
In this vein, Dop, is set in an anonymous working class area during the covid 19 lockdown and Relates the confrontation between women black market sellers of alcohol and their reconciliation at the hands of two progressive cops. Though starting off as seemingly aggressive law enforcers, the cops reveal their peace-making skills and political understanding, and engineer a mutually acceptable and very reasonable solution.
Dope examines the difference between the use and sale of dagga as opposed to that of hard drugs like nyaope and tik. It traces the lodging of an anonymous complaint against a local white activist who is accused of selling hard drugs to black school children, and thus besmirching his positive reputation as a provider of free drama and art classes to young people. The civic office bearers decide to test the allegation by visiting a nearby high school and gaining ’first hand’ information from the chairperson of the school governing board. The chairperson then introduces them to the anonymous complainant who turns out to be the white activist’s disgruntled black step-son. Bongi had been selling the dagga that the activist was wholesaling to young dealers for exclusive sale to adults, and the conflict between them is about the morality of his breaking this agreement by starting to also sell nyaope and tik to school kids.
Finally, Despots, is set in Zanzania, a mythical African country, where the president, Elijah Zamantunga, refuses to accept his defeat at an election, and contrives to keep power by using white mercenaries. They are paid to put down a popular uprising. But while the play unfolds, consisting of interactions with various members of his family and similarly corrupt ministers, the climax surprises by having Zamantunga’s children turn against him and their debauched mother, and joining the revolutionary forces who will purge the country of their oppressive parents.
EXTRACT FROM ‘DOP’
BUNTU: I don’t like silly jokes. Now tell me the truth – how long you been selling alcohol? You know it’s against lockdown regulations. You people are making trouble for the whole community. You encourage drunkenness that brings fights and car accidents, and fights and accidents take up hospital beds when we don’t have enough for covid patients.
NTOMBI: I swear I didn’t buy this beer from sis Joyce. I got it in town, near Noord St. there was this guy selling in the street. He moves around.
BANTU: Yes, I’m sure he does. So every idiot can tell us a story and walk away.
MXOLISI: But officer, she didn’t buy alcohol here. You heard her. It’s a coincidence that has nothing to do with her coming to us for food.
BUNTU: Alright. Then prove it. Open your gate. We are coming in to check your fridges and your storeroom, and then we’ll go through the house.
JOYCE: Ag, don’t be silly, officer. What’s wrong with providing abantu with a service they want. These are hard times. We all need to unwind. Our president wasn’t thinking about our mental health.
BANTU: But you’re a killer, lady. With your profiteering you are taking the little the poor have and for what? A few hours of forgetting how bad their lives are?
RONALD: You being a bit harsh, officer. Not all of us drink to blow our minds.
JOYCE: Exactly, I’m just trying to make a living. My husband and I are both unemployed.
BANTU: That doesn’t mean you can break the law. (Shouts) Hey, sisi, where you going? Come back! We haven’t finished with you.
NTOMBI: Mamela, I have to go home now. My children are waiting.
BUNTU: Yes, I’m sure the kiddies are waiting for their bedtime drink. Each gets one glass of beer, Half an aloma.
BANTU: Give me that bag. This time I’m not just going to just take a look. This time it stays with me.
NTOMBI: Ah, but officer, what have I done wrong? It’s not a crime to drink? It’s not like I’m . . .
BUNTU: Selling? That’s true. You are not the main criminal here.
JOYCE: Hau, don’t say criminal! We don’t want to do this business, but the law isn’t feeding us, so what must we do?
MXOLISI: Believe me, officer, we don’t encourage people to drink too much.
JOYCE: We only sell two packets of aloma to each customer so they can’t get too drunk.
BANTU: (Laughs mockingly) You ration your customers? You really take us for fools and that makes me angry.
RONALD: It’s actually true, officer. They don’t let things get out of hand. They know the bad apples and the rotten potatoes in the neighbourhood.
BUNTU: Open the gate. We are coming in and taking you and your stock down to the station.
MXOLISI: Is this an arrest?
BANTU: No, it’s an invitation to my birthday party. Only thing is, she will celebrate it in jail.
NTOMBI: You can’t arrest her, my brother. Joyce is my sister. We go back a long way. We women are all struggling.
BUNTU: So you want to protect her?
NTOMBI: It’s only now that she sells alcohol. It’s only with this lockdown.
RONALD: Ja, that’s the truth, officer. She’s a good person to us. We need Joyce.
BANTU: What’s with you people?! You say you drink because you are stressed. But the more you drink, the more stressed you become – never mind the cost.