“As a Police officer the sight of you does not entertain people.”
From fishing babies from toilets to retrieving a dead body of a man who choked on an egg, Umaga has done it all as a special constable and got confirmation that indeed he was not born to be cop but an entertainer.
For many who are in the industry and those who spend the better part of their day at the bus rank,this face would definitely look familiar.
Voice reporter LEONARD MATOTA caught up with the multi talented UMAGA the special constable who sells cool time to find out what makes him tick.
Q: Good afternoon sir, are you limping or its one of your jokes?
No no no, absolutely not.
I got injured at Sunday soccer over the weekend.
Q: So you are trying to burn the fats after all?
Yes I want to be slender and never get tired, but seriously it’s just to keep fit and socialize with friends in the hood.
Q: Ok, now tell us about yourself Mr!
My name is Jethro “Umaga” Ndebele, I was born in Masunga but was raised in Bobonong but I have now moved my home base to Natale.
I am from a family of four.
I am the last born on the 31st of December 1984.
Q: Where does the name UMAGA come from?
Well I used to watch wrestling a lot and Umaga was my favorite character, maybe because of his body size or the fact that he would still be a funny character despite losing his fight.
As a grown up I decided to trade with the name and it’s now a household name!
Q: Take us through your educational background Mr. Umaga.
I did my Primary level at Natale, and then proceeded to Bobonong JSS before finishing it off at Matshekge Hill School.
Q: Alright, now where did you meet the entertainment industry?
I think it was back in 1996 when I met a teacher by the name of Mrs Chinyenga who taught me music.
One day she asked me to try acting at a Kgotla meeting in Natale and I realized that I enjoyed acting, so I decided to take it up at junior school until I finished at Cambridge.
Q: And then what happened after your Cambridge?
Well I did not do well at school because I concentrated more on drama than academics.
I then decided to make a living from what I loved the most so I relocated to Gaborone and acted in Lesologolo which featured the likes of Ntsoro but by then I was not popular.
Q: Then when did you become popular?
It was after I met a man called Radijo.
For the first time after meeting this character I did script writing.
I wrote’ Leso la ga Makatadimeche’ and acted in the same play as “Dokotela”.
From there I wrote for Mmaradijo a drama called ‘bitch lady’ which was staged in Sun City and went on to act in ‘Chobolo’ as “Ngaka Mazambura”.
That is when I realized that indeed I am trying and its not bad.
Q: Then what did you do next?
Then I went on to do a lot of projects and at the same time produced my first album called ‘Tonki e Ntsho’, which didn’t do well maybe because of the picture.
I had put the head of a donkey and used my eye and mouth on the cover.
Q: From Tonki e ntsho?
Yah from Tonki e Ntsho I released a standup comedy called ‘Aa!’ and the first copy was delivered to his Excellency the President Ian Khama.
Q: What! The President, Why?
Yes! And It was accompanied by a letter notifying him that I am from the Police and I am back with comedy which will entertain people the best way possible.
I gave him the first copy seeking his blessings because he is our leader, so he deserved the first copy as the first citizen.
Q: Did you get some sort of a feedback from HE?
Unfortunately I did not and up to date I am still waiting, but I was assured that he received the copy.
Nevertheless the DVD sold fairly well and I am not complaining at all.
Q: Alright Umaga, now take us through your latest offering ‘Bohema Dance’.
Yes this DVD has a hit song called ‘Ima Ndi Jali’ which is a Kalanga song, as you may know I always tell people that I am the first Ndebele to be on facebook.
I mixed mapaxanga music, house and comedy.
Q: Why all this combinations?
I wanted to cater for all the people, young and old.
I want all of them to be able to watch together and laugh at the same time and even back home so that they can enjoy comedy and music in their language.
Ima Ndi Jali simply means ‘Wait and let me do this’ and that is dance.
Q: Umaga you now feature on a popular television Drama called Mareledi, how did you end up there?
I have long wanted to be on TV as a presenter and have always auditioned at BTV but qualification would let me down.
So when I heard about the auditions at Mareledi I thought it was now or never.
So I went to audition and pretended to faint when I saw a long line so that I could audition quickly and yes here I am.
Q: What role do you play at Mareledi?
I still trade as Umaga, but now I am a gangster working for Sparks, on the streets I am the boss selling Marijuana and the likes of that young man Ditiro work for me.
Q: Lovely stuff, now there is the other side of you that people don’t know, you have worked for Botswana Police, tell us more.
Ooh yes, yah I joined Botswana Police as a special constable in 2009 until 2012, then asked for an unpaid leave before resigning in 2013.
Q: Why did you resign?
Well I resigned from the force because I wanted to concentrate on drama, I felt like drama owes me and I should do what I love the most and follow my heart.
I wanted to act, dance and entertain people because as a Police officer the sight of you does not entertain people.
Q: What do you mean by that?
As an officer when you approach people they do not smile and say yes the police have visited me, instead they get scared and worried, wondering what they have done wrong.
So thats what I did not want, for people to fear me because I was not born a monster but an entertainer.
Q: Are you saying you did not enjoy your job?
Definitely not! But don’t get me wrong I did my job to the best of my ability but my heart was not there, it was at the performing arts which I missed so dearly.
Q: Despite that you didn’t enjoy your work, what was your lesson learnt from the force?
Eish! my guy at the police discipline is the order of the day, I have learnt to be disciplined and patient with people because as an officer you meet people of different characters.
You must also lead by an example to the general public.
Q: So while at the Police what experience frightened you the most?
One day we had to go and remove a dead baby from a toilet in G-west and I was the leader in my patrolling troop.
The very same week we still had to go and remove yet another dead body from a tent after being choked by eggs.
That’s when I came to appreciate the work done by the police that indeed they work hard.
Q: Still at police what have you realized about people’s perception towards the police?
Ever since the coming in of neighborhood watches the relationship between the public and police has improved, though it is not enough because people are still afraid to give evidence.
They think by giving evidence they are getting themselves into trouble.
Q: Since you are an actor why didn’t you feature in Itshireletse?
Well I did write to my seniors expressing interest in the cast of Itshireletse but I was told special constables do not feature in the programme.
But funny enough I have directed two pass outs at the Police college graduation.
So that broke my heart, and it is one of the major reasons I quit the Police.
Q: So do you hate the Police now because of that?
No no no, I don’t hate them at all!
In fact I still work closely with them as a volunteer customary court interpreter, especially at the G-west customary court.
I help in translating Ndebele and Shona from our neighboring Zimbabwe.
Q: Your primary role is to make people laugh, how hard is it?
It is not hard if you are focused because jokes are made out of our everyday life, but I think most of us lack motivation.
We need sponsors so that we can be able to make enough money, right now we are struggling and there is nothing at our houses, so the little we make today goes straight to the house.
Q: So what do you suggest should be done to grow the industry?
Set up an office that specializes in the performing arts in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture then we would go far.
I know the likes of COSBOTS are trying to collect royalties on our behalf and we appreciate their efforts a lot, but bottom line is it’s not enough.
Q: And where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I will be in Hollywood, I wanted to start in Nigeria but now I fear for my life because of Boko Haram, how I will act without my head?
Q: Then what are you going to do now that you are not going to Nigeria anymore?
I have saved enough and will be relocating to South Africa end of August for six months to study towards my certificate in performing arts, and try to secure acting roles thereafter!
I wish I could get help and sponsorship to complement what I have.
Q: Sure thing big guy and good luck, now Feel good its Friday! What are you up to?
My favourite day yes, I will be performing at Village BDF with a man trading by the name Monnamogolo wa Tandabala.
So Batswana should come and get a dose of the funny me.
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