‘I like roles that emphasise the gospel that prison is not paradise’: Israel Matseke Zulu


Everyone’s favourite TV and movie gangster Israel Matseke Zulu has had his “P Diddy moment” with his recent name change.

The actor formerly known as Israel Makoe shared with Sowetan the reason behind this. “Makoe was my stepfather’s surname. Now I’m going by a double-barrelled surname,” he said.

“Matseke is my mother’s surname and Zulu is my biological father’s surname. They were never married and according to many African cultures, you can’t use your father’s surname because of that reason.

“I have changed it officially and the decision was not brought on by any ancestral reasons.”

Matseke Zulu’s focus this year has been on making movies.

“I’m a film star more than anything. It’s something I have dreamed about ever since I was young.”

One of the many movie projects he has been working on is Beyond the River. Set for release next year, the film marks his departure from playing a gangster.

Matseke Zulu adds that audiences will, for the first time, see his softer side on screen as he mentors a young boy from falling onto the wrong path in life.

“My role in Yizo Yizo still stands out for me. That was a grand entrance. Following the success of my role there, I have been blessed. Right now my best work is in Beyond the River,” he said.

“My role in the film changed the game for me. It made me realise how good an actor I am. People will realise after seeing the film that I can’t only play gangsters. The question that I commonly get asked is ‘don’t you get tired of being typecast as a gangster?’ My answer is ‘no’. Don’t get me wrong, I can play any character, but I understand where my strength lies. You can’t take a goalkeeper and make them a striker,” Makoe Zulu said.

He insisted that his purpose is never to romanticise crime but rather to educate audiences. Matseke Zulu served an eight-year jail sentence for housebreaking and theft when he was younger.

“I am not a gangster, I have never been a gangster and even in prison I was never a gangster. I don’t even have tattoos, but I was affected by that situation and managed to overcome those nightmares,” he said.

“I think there is a need for people in the public eye to take a stand against crime, violence, gangsterism and other sensitive issues that affect us as black people, especially the youth.

“I’m an actor with a purpose. My intention is to open the eyes of young boys who want to travel down the road of gangsterism.

“They’re not aware of the dangers they will face. My message in my art is crime does not pay. I like roles that emphasise the gospel that prison is not paradise and crime does not pay.”

Matseke Zulu is currently heating up the small screen with roles on hit shows Isibaya, Z’bondiwe and Is’thunzi.

For a brief moment, the actor touches on the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2011.

“My first born child passed away when he was 15 in 2011. He was accidentally shot dead by his best friend.

“They were playing with a gun, a licensed gun that belonged to the friend’s father,” he said.

“We were not there. This is the story we were told and it’s the story we have to believe.

“My child was shot dead accidentally in 2011. I have a second born, Nhlanhla. He is 14.”

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Originally published at Celebitchy SA.

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