Screw your aspiration!
Gold Diggers e.tv (DStv channel 194) Monday to Friday, 8pm I’m writing this on Monday night at 9pm and I’m in a bit of shock. I just watched the first episode of e.tv’s new telenovela, Gold Diggers, and it was actually really good.
Yes, I’m a cynic, and I was expecting the worst – the usual uneven performances, dodgy studio interiors and patronising story lines – but this is a classy production with a mostly black creative team totally revising the archetypal South African story: the nation built on gold.
But this is nothing like The Villagers, the first English drama on SABC in 1976 that would later be sort of reinvented as Isidingo – both are set on mines.
So far, in Gold Diggers, there are no snootily stressed mine bosses and their beautiful daughters – the aspirational upper class with more money and more problems than the mine workers. Instead, there are the miners and the illegal miners, the Zama Zamas.
The queen of the scene is Tina Jaxa. She brings her soap legend as a bad, bitchy girl to her role as a teacher in a village, and it’s enough to make her Alexis friggin’ Carrington. She’s locked in conflict with her neighbour, her husband’s first wife.
The husband, Patrick, is played by Mbongeni Ngema (well, at least for the first 50 episodes if reports are true that he walked off set and had to be replaced). He’s good, and I believe his performance.
He is a middle-aged mine worker at the end of his tether, demanding a raise, lobbying the union, consolidating the strike. In several scenes, the ghosts of Marikana are rattled from their cages by (badly sound-effected) gun battles where mine workers are shot down.
Gold Diggers is not about *that* kind of gold digger – sexy people hooking up with rich men for nice things. It’s about the women who must survive on a mine worker’s miserable salary, and still build their families and legacies.
As bills increase and money becomes even tighter, Patrick will – says the press release – be tempted to join the Zama Zamas.
Pitting itself against Generations The Legacy, Gold Diggers has quite simply erased the petty concerns of the ruling class to focus instead on the worker.