Zim Actor Zolile Makeleni defies poor background to rise to the top

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Growing up in Epworth, one of Harare’s most populace ghettos where water and sanitation is all but unavailable, screen actor Zolile Makeleni has never let his impoverished background stop him from achieving his dream.

The 31-year-old star has become a household name and most sought-after actor on screen.

“I have not yet arrived,” he said, adding that, “I have done everything locally including working with some of the renowned directors in Zimbabwe but I feel it’s about time I break into South African market or Hollywood.”

He explained when pressed further on his upbringing: “Epworth is known for all the reasons, poverty, high levels of prostitution, crowded and all and in fact most people think nothing good can come of the town. Growing up l never had mirrors in my room because there was nothing to look at, but now l feel the need to do that every morning just to remind myself that am not yet there and l can be better.”

Zolile aka Tsotsi who stars as Officer in Rachel J music video Ngoro

Zolile reckons that although he has achieved a lot on the local scene, he is yet to make the BIG break.

His love for acting started as far back during his secondary education where he was a member of the school drama club and performing arts.

“I loved performing art and it was not long before I decided to pursue it professionally,” he explained.

To date, Zolile has featured in over 10 productions including Makomborero (movie), Cook Off, Wenera, Tete B, Thandi’s Diary, Revelation a ZBCTV drama series, Bhachi, a short film.

He, however, single out Makomborero as his best production to date.

“In Makomborero it sort of opened more doors for me because that’s where most directors discovered my talent. However, Wenera, the soap in which I starred popularised me because it was viewed by a larger audience,” he said.

Zolile has become the most recognizable personality in the streets of Harare through his trademark blonde hairstyle which he wore for the last four years.

“The hairstyle was a trial and error because I didn’t know whether or not it would work. To my surprise it worked and people easily identify me with.

“But much more than the hairstyle I think people have fallen in love with my personality on and off the screen,” he said.

He has since branched into production with his first Talk Show on ZBCTV being Rock Bottom.

“The show airs on ZBCTV on Sunday and its now in new season. The show is about motivating people drawing the highs and lows that people go through a lot of people rise up when they fall. So they share their success stories of how then picked themselves up,” he said.

The one good thing about Zolile is that he speaks at least five languages Shona, Xhosa, isiNdebele, Bemba and English.

According to Zolile, his inspiration is Hollywood filmmaker Tyler Perry.

“Perry has proved that you can do anything for as long as you are determined,” he said.

His saddest moment is how he struggled with almost everything to get where he is now.

“I couldn’t face rejection simply because of where I come from. I’ve learnt the hard way to prove that it’s not where you come from but where you are going,” Zolile said.

Going forward, he wants to start a film foundation which will open doors for ghetto youths.

And he believes local film industry has potential to become powerhouse in the region.

“Sadly, we are at a point where Government doesn’t believe a film industry exists. Now what is going to happen is that the industry will die in its infancy because of lack of investment by Government,” he explained.

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