Botsotso Ensemble – Taking Everything in to Account (Episode 1)
Botsotso Ensemble – Taking Everything in to Account (Episode 2)
Botsotso Ensemble – Taking Everything in to Account (Episode 3)
Botsotso Ensemble – Taking Everything in to Account (Episode 4)
The stage play was adapted for radio when the onset of the corona epidemic made live performance impossible. It premiered at POPart, Maboneng, Johannesburg in September 2019.
Review by Andries Nel (3 Oct 2019)
Taking Everything into Account. Written by Allan Kolski Horwitz. Performed by the Botsotso Ensemble: Thandeka Shangase, Yandisa Khwakhwa, Katlego Letsholonyana, Simphiwe Dladla and Malusi Mkhonza.
Taking Everything into Account is excellent engaged – and engaging – theatre. Many in the audience came out of solidarity (not expecting much) and left overwhelmed, entertained, angered, educated, and inspired to mobilise and organise.
The drama is set in Kopanong, a medium sized municipality – matching the profile of the bottom third of our municipalities that are distressed and dysfunctional – and often captured.
In a hauntingly accurate portrayal of local state capture the mayor, Victor Mabaso, and his right-hand woman, Gugu Dhlamini, conspire with a network of tenderpreneurs and (literally) drain the town dry.
When the municipality comes under scrutiny from the Auditor General the contradictions in the criminal capture cartel are exacerbated to the point of rupture.
Faith Hlatswayo, the once servile financial manager, cracks in a crisis of conscience. Mabaso and Dhlamini are driven from subterfuge to open thuggery. A realistically absurd situation develops and reaches its climax.
Actual political assassinations in municipalities, the latest being in Mogalakwena where the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee was gunned down, are spectres so real that they almost join the cast. However, this is not an ensemble of clichés, a one-dimensional reduction of complex reality to a simplistic juxtaposition of goodies and baddies.
The author, veteran activist and poet, Allan Kolski Horwitz, is a masterful dialectician and dramatist, who in a highly entertaining manner brings to life all the relevant complexities, interrelationships, contradictions and developments: Public and private sector, the personal and the political, race, gender and class.
The title – “taking everything into account” – suggests both the need to demand and ensure accountability for the (mis-) management of financial accounts in our municipalities, as well as the need to develop a holistic understanding of the factors responsible for this state of affairs, in order to change it. The Botsotso Ensemble gave a superb performance. Thandeka Shangase, Yandisa Khwakhwa, Katlego Letsholonyana, Simphiwe Dladla and Malusi Mkhonza all demonstrated subtlety, versatility and masterful command of roles and subject matter.
After the performance Horwitz engaged the audience in a lively discussion that ranged from the relationship between public and private corruption, gender based violence and the need to mobilise society against corruption and state capture – amongst others through art and culture.
Many in the audience lamented the lack of attention and resources given to, especially, community arts.
As Bertold Brecht remarked, “We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself.”
Unions, civic organisations and ANC branches were encouraged to host performances.
MABASO enters. He sits down at a desk, ruffles through papers.
MABASO: (Makes a phone call) Gugu, is everything ready? He should be here any moment. (Slight pause) You sure? I don’t want any mess ups, you hear me? (Slight pause) Good, that’s my girl. He puts the phone down) Ah, right on time.
MABASO: Mr Ndlovu! You’re looking younger than ever! And me? I’m good, sir. Yes, very good, sir. We have achieved so much this year. Everything for the people!
QHAWE: Of course – Mr Delivery himself . . . let’s have two pizzas for lunch. Well, we’re back, Mr Mabaso. It’s that time of year.
MABASO: Too true. Rules will be rules.
QHAWE: And you wouldn’t be mayor without knowing the rules, right? And how to apply them.
MABASO: Exactly. That’s why I won the election by a landslide.
QHAWE: And let me tell you something else – I hope you will improve my mood. I’ve just come from your neighbours. Things are bad on that side.
MABASO: Ag, Comrade, between you and me, Gumede doesn’t know how to run a municipality never mind their soccer team. We beat them hands down this season.
QHAWE: Not surprising, Mr Mayor – no organization, no forward movement. And so . . . backlogs and own goals. But anyway, let me start mowing the grass on this side of the fence. Is your head of finance still that lady . . . what was her name? Faith? Faith Hlatswayo!
MABASO: What a memory! Yes, it’s still our dear Mrs Hlatswayo. Ms Finance Management herself! A gem. She’s our rock.
QHAWE: Well, let’s hope she’s stayed steady and hasn’t rocked the boat.
MABASO: Hau, don’t expect tsunamis here, comrade! Everything will be plain sailing. I’ve been working very closely with her to make sure that’s the case.
QHAWE: Excellent! Then let me go and find her. We start the audit tomorrow.
MABASO: Not a moment too soon.
QHAWE: I’ll need a few spare offices for my team and maybe some cups and a kettle. We drink a lot of coffee on the job.
MABASO: I’m sure you do. Maximum alert, right? Yes, sir, you’ll have it all. Everything for you and your team. Such bright youngsters, a credit to the nation.
QHAWE: Yes, they are a good bunch. And I’m sure this is going to be a season of fruitful inspection. The people of Kopanong are anxious to get our report. We’re all hoping for an improvement on last year. Anyway, let me leave you to all the important work you’re doing. Till tomorrow! (Exits)
MABASO: Yo, this boy looks hungry. (Shaking his head) But what’s there to worry about? The party is behind me. And I know so much about so many people.