‘iSystem’ looks at both sides
IN HIS play iSystem, Anele Rusi grapples with what it means to be a South African policeman and part of the “system”.
The play, which opens tonight at Artscape, runs until November 30 (Wednesday to Saturday) and is part of the Artscape Spring Drama Season. It stars Sizwe Msutu, Thembani Luzipho, Riaan Visman, Zondwa Njokweni and Stefan Erasmus and is directed by Fatima Dike.
Rusi says in the townships people refer to police as “the system”.
“They just say there’s the system but in Xhosa it would come out as there’s iSystem. That is how I came up with the title.
“Every day we read headlines about police brutality – it bothers me the way we are getting the information… I wondered how it would be to get the policeman’s point of view. I wanted to tell both sides. I wanted to look at their challenges and the conflicts they are experiencing internally – leading to their stress and frustration,” says Rusi.
Contemporary police are not an image often seen on stage, I say.
“Yes, I haven’t seen much theatre with South African policemen depicted on stage. In my play, you see policemen on stage in their uniforms,” says Rusi.
He conducted extensive interviews and found that there is huge frustration.
“iSystem looks after its own but it also fails its own – often favouring perpetrators.”
A small number of police will have to deal with a mob of rioters, for example, and what are they supposed to do in a situation of a handful of police against thousands?
“I want people to think and not just to stop there, but discuss and talk about what is happening. People forget that under that blue uniform there is a human being like any other, with emotions, stress and facing societal issues like all of us. Before they are police officers they are fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. I wanted to remind the audience that police officers have families as well, so they are likely to be just as vulnerable at times.”
This is Rusi’s first staged play in a mainstream Cape Town venue but he has been writing plays since his first year in varsity.
Rusi, 30, grew up in the Eastern Cape and came to Cape Town to study electrical engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Belville. It was during his first week of orientation at CPUT that he signed up for poetry and drama activities, something to do in his spare time.
Parallel to his engineering studies, he threw himself into writing and directing student drama productions – one of which went to the National Arts Festival.
During his final year of study, Rusi attended a workshop in Langa run by Roy Sargeant.
“He told us about the Black Playwrights’ Forum, which forms a part of Artscape’s New Writing Programme, and that we could send in scripts and if they selected your script they would coach and guide one and it might be staged as part of the Spring Drama Season.”
He submitted iSystem and it was selected. He says the experience of working with Sargeant and director Fatima Dike was tremendous. Watching his text come to life on stage has been thrilling, he says.
Rusi works for a cellphone operator by day and continues his writing in his “spare time”.
● Shows are at 7.30pm and there is a 3pm matinee on Saturday, November 30. Tickets are R50-R85 from Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or Artscape on 021 421 7695. Discounts for students and seniors with valid IDs.
POINT OF VIEW: Zondwa Njonkweni, left, Riaan Visman and Thembani Luzipho in
DIRECTOR: Anele Rusi