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WHEN the first guitar chords of the mbaqanga ballad Wangala strummed during the opening sequence of Mzansi Magic’s telenovela turned soapie, Isibaya, South African television was transformed forever.

Five years later, the lovelorn melody, Wangala has become synonymous with one of the best television soapie to ever come out of the country. And this year, it celebrates 1000 episodes and countless moments of action, family feuds, rivalry, love, murder and magic.

Managing Director at The Bomb Shelter, Desiree Markgraaff said, when they launched Isibaya five years ago, they were "very excited about creating a show for Mzansi Magic viewers that had juicy villains, beautiful people, the rolling hills of Thukela and an inspiring hero whose enemies constantly schemed his downfall".


"In the middle of this, there were two young lovers fated to be together. We wanted to bring a world full of drama, colourful characters, vicious battles over taxi routes and tenders for new highways, and the lure of big money that can be made,” said Markgraaff.

The novel concept set against a backdrop that swings from breathtaking vistas of rolling green hills to noisy congested taxi ranks, Isibaya dared to tread where few local television shows had gone before. It’s had South Africa buzzing as it tackles subjects such as polygamy, laying bare the intricacies of the notoriously private taxi industry, addressing decades-old family feuds and confronting the taboo topic of black magic.

When the series’ loved hero Mpiyakhe was “killed” in a car crash and turned into umkhovu by his enemy, the entire country lit up social media as each episode held viewers spellbound and simultaneously chattering none stop. Isibaya had dared to address the sacred subject of black magic and the walking dead.

Central to all the turmoil was the love story of Sibusiso and Thandeka, star-crossed lovers whose epic journey of love could rival Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The young couple defied a generational family feud and the risk of being disowned just so they could fulfill their destiny – to be together as soulmates.

The show’s popularity - wich tops DStv's audience figures monthly raking in over 1million viewers according to the BRCSA - saw it turned into a daily soap opera that straddled tradition and modern life in a Rainbow Nation of the 21st century. New families were introduced, more rivals came on board, plots and twists gave viewers whiplash and locations swung from untouched rural beauty to the mod-cons of urban life.

Isibaya’s Unforgettable Love Stories:

· 1. Sbu and Thandeka: When their eyes locked across a tranquil river, it was love at first sight. Theirs was destined to be a legendary love story for the history books, fraught with emotion, high drama and epic declarations.

· 2. Mpiyakhe and his wives: Polygamy was thrust to the fore when South Africa was introduced to powerful taxi boss Mpiyake, his city slick socialite wife Iris and his two rural wives; the deferential Phumelele and brassy Siphokazi. There was jealousy and competition, but there was also a strong sense of family and sisterhood.


3. Fezile and Qondi: The taxi boss’ shy niece-in-law falls in love with his gentle henchman, their coy relationship rooted in tradition and rural elegance. It should have been easy because their love was simple and uncomplicated, but matters of the heart never function like a well-oiled machine.


4. Ntandane and Buhle: One of the most heartbreaking moments on Isibaya came in the form of this couple’s bloody wedding. Their happily ever after was brutally cut short when taxi rivals opened fire at the wedding party, killing the bride and leaving the groom insane with grief.


5. Jabu and Iris: It’s said that forbidden fruit tastes sweeter, and it didn’t come more forbidden than the affair between Jabu and his stepmother Iris. He was infatuated with his father’s glamorously audacious wife; she liked the thrill and danger cuckolding her husband with his own son right under his nose. It was never going to end well.


6. Skhaleni and Pam: Stolen kisses accompanied by stole chicken and expensive booze drove this comedic relief love story of the persistent lowly taxi driver and madam’s uppity assistant. She thought she was too good for him, but his relentless pursuit finally wore her down and brought out the fun side to her. - release by Mzansi Magic

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