What started out as10 minutes of riotous radio comedy on YFM's afternoon show has blossomed into instant celebrity, a full length kwaito album (through Ghetto Ruff) and a SAMA award for best newcomer - even though Mzekezeke is more of a comedy routine than music. Andy Davis spoke to South Africa’s Ali G.

Andy: Whenever you’re on radio, I don’t understand a thing because you never speak in English. So what’s the big fuss about? What did you win a SAMA for? What are you actually saying?

Mzekezeke: I know that that language that I speak is understood by the majority, but you are right it’s not fair for me not to speak English because you are not the first person I hear this thing from. Other people told me that they love to hear what I speaking but they don’t understand. It’s good for me to put in some English.

Andy: Who have you been phoning and what do you say to them?

Mzekezeke: Lately we been dealing with important issues, things that are happening every day, like today we were calling the Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths – because when you see I phone people to try and understand something, it’s not just for help me but the listeners because they also want the answers – they want to know why they are supposed to pay for the plastics. Then the other day I was phoning the presidential spokesperson because of the money they are giving to the family of the victims of the people of apartheid. They are going to compensate them 30 thousand each. We are getting answers because other people are saying that money could not replace the lives of their families but others are saying it’s better than nothing - what are you saying as the government? So issues like that. These important things. The other day I was phoning the University of Stellenbosch about the group that they call themselves ‘die swarte hande’. They are terrorising other children. People they go there for schooling, they are teerrorising the black students, so we phoned the university, we want to get answers from the rector, the SRC president. So it’s things like that, the important issues, the things that affect us, that’s what we are dealing with now.

Andy: Didn’t you used to phone celebrities, musicians and Simunye presenters and harass them?

Mzekezeke: Yes, I tell you why I used to phone them was because I wanted to get into the entertainment industry, you see. So I was asking them all the time to give me the opportunity and all of them used to tell me nonsense. But I never give up, I phoned them every day. But I think that chapter is closed now because I got what I wanted to do. I wanted to get into singing, and I did. I wanted to do well at singing and beat them at their own game. I did that very well, although they are all still complaining. But at the same time it motivates people, anyone in the country knows now that a faceless person, who doesn’t speak English very well, who is not too educated can do it. We can move from being at the corner to someone who is successful one day. You can move from standard 0 to grade 10 to achieving your university degree. I was just showing that to the people. I can achieve my goals from scratch to the top of the ladder. And I did it. The highlight of everything was – ok the awards was nice – but the highlight of everything on Freedom Day I was performing with the president. He said he was very happy with what I had done so far. He was a very happy man and he likes what I have done on the radio. I did not know, I was surprised that the president was listening to me sometimes, when he has time.

Andy: Did the president not make you take off your mask?

Mzekezeke: No he did not. He respect that. He did not even speak about the mask. That shows me he is a very clever man who knows the concept of the mask.

Andy: He could have had you arrested because the mask seems to indicate that you are a car hijacker or a tsotsi.

Mzekezeke: You are bringing a very good point. One thing I am going to tell you, because if you look at the balaclava it has always been associated with the bad things and the criminality – but what’s nice about Mzekezeke wearing the mask is that for once we are bringing something positive from this mask. A person wearing the mask is entertaining people, talking about important issues and encouraging the youth.

Andy: Is it not to hide your true identity. Because the rumour around is that you are famous.

Mzekezeke: I know, the people they say that. But the people who say that are in the industry – the people out there don’t care about that. They just want to listen what I have to say, doing my music, my skits and presenting on TV. A lot of the things that I say they identify with that and my sense of humour. I think people want someone who is very real – they don’t want people who copy something from overseas, they want an original. Something from here.
That’s the concept of Mzekezeke is that anyone can do it. From scratch, I am the man in the street, I can be a man who is selling peanuts in the train, I can be a famous lawyer – Mzekezeke can be anyone. Everyone in them they have their own Mzekezeke. Even yourself Andy, if you look to yourself to the mirror when you are alone that Mzekezeke in you comes out. The things that I say are the things that most people think about but are not willing to say. They are afraid to speak of them. I speak in that way to someone who pisses you off, the way you would like to speak to them but are afraid. But me I speak like that, I don’t care.

Andy: A lot of white people kak themselves for you. They don’t understand what you’re saying, firstly. And secondly they think you’re a hijacker. You know what it’s like, whenever people don’t speak in English, white people think you are saying things about them and the terrible things you want to do to them. And the mask doesn’t help.

Mzekezeke: I don’t think so. The people understand it. Even the white people, they don’t understand what I am saying but some have come to me and to say that they find my music hilarious. But I think you have raised a very good point. This thing of me not speaking too much English. And it’s not just the white people but also the foreign people from Nigeria and Congo – they got a problem in understanding. And maybe I’m losing fans. I’m going to try and gooi a bit of English, even if it is broken.

Andy: I like the way you speak English.

Mzekezeke: I got a new teacher on my show now. Everyday he teaches me a new word in English. Yesterday I was learning ‘magnificent’ the day before I was learning ‘rehabilitation’ the day before I was learning ‘masturbation’

Andy: Can you tell me if these rumours are true or not?

Mzekezeke: Sure.

Andy: You wear the mask because you are too ugly to be on TV?

Mzekezeke: Heh heh heh heh. That’s a good one. I can never say that I’m beautiful and that I am ugly. They are trying to get me to take it off to prove that I am beautiful.

Andy: The other rumour is that you are actually Phat Joe and that you are doing Mzekezeke to get back onto YFM after things went sour at Metro.

Mzekezeke: Haaai heh heh heh! Ah but you know what if I’m Phat Joe, Phat Joe is a person who speaks proper English, mos. I think people who say that will be answered when I am on the show of Phat Joe this week.

Andy: I have heard stories when you were playing a gig in Durban, but someone got on stage with a mask in Polokwane and pretended to be you.

Mzekezeke: Yes I heard about those stories also. But they say most of the people who got on stage were beaten by the crowd. Ja the crowd beat them and the police arrested them, because number one the crowd will not allow you to mime – they want to hear that voice of Mzekezeke and the live skits. Number 2 is that I always perform with Brown – so they want to see Brown on stage. If they don’t see Brown, they don’t hear the voice and they don’t see the features of Mzekezeke – because I am a little bit fat – if they don’t see those things then you going to get into trouble.

Andy: So now you say you’re not going to take on the celebrities but more skits about political and social issues, from the perspective of the man on the street?

Mzekezeke: Exactly because you see now with the following I have it’s my responsibility to make sure the things that I speak about are positive and educational to the normal guy who is in the street. Because too many people when they listen to these issues they become disinterested, but maybe if they listen to someone who is more like them, in the language they understand – then they listen and now people are informed. They are getting educated with a sense of humour at the same time.

Andy: I like the idea. So can you phone minister Tshabalala-Msimang and talk to her about the Aids problems.

Mzekezeke: Ja ja I phoned her last week. I spoke to her spokesperson and I tried to call her yesterday but Minister Tshabalala-Msimang that’s the one we are calling every week – that thing about people dying and there is medication is not fair when you look at the government saying we cannot afford these things, but people are dying when money is being spent on arms. That’s the main issue I’m on at the moment.

Andy: Now when you were on stage recently with president Mbeki did you have the chance to ask him what’s up with Uncle Bob in Zimbabwe?

Mzekezeke: Heh heh heh heh – it would have been very nice but the president was in a hurry, and we were there to entertain the people so there was not enough time to talk about it. But I always talk to his spokesperson Bheki Kumalo.

Andy: Didn’t you get invited to his place – I heard he has nice parties at his place.

Mzekezeke: No no no I never heard about that. You you are naughty, what are you trying to say about our president?

Andy: Nothing, I just want to be invited.

Mzekezeke: I also want to go there. But tonight I am going to the opening of a rehabilitation center in Midrand being opened by Miriam Makeba.

Andy: One last question – your name Mzekezeke – you know what it sounds like?

Mzekezeke: What?

Andy: Ziggy-zuggy [S’camto/tsotsi slang for having sex, making love, ziggy-zuggy]

Mzekezeke: Ha Heh heh heh.

Andy: I don’t mean to be rude or disrespectful with the name your mother gave you but especially when you sing Mzekezeke mzakazaka – I think you must be gooi-ing lank.

Mzekezeke: [Laughs] me my real name is Zakhele, my mother give me the name but other people call me Zakes, Zakesman, Mzeke and Mzekezeke –

Andy: So it’s not because you have a bad rep with ladies?

Mzekezeke: Nuh-uh I am not a ladies person. I am too focussed on becoming successful. I’d rather abstain. I’d rather masturbate. Heh heh heh.

Andy: Hey good use of the new word.

Mzekezeke: Yes I must use it from time to time so I don’t forget.

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