Reformed convict Khulubuse Mtshali (Desmond Dube) returned to Alexandra township with a clear vision after serving his 10-year prison sentence for robbing a jewellery store. He’s going to turn his life around on drama show Impilo: The Scam (stream the whole of S1 on Showmax now), and make up for his past mistakes.
Besides starting what he refers to as a “network marketing company”, Khulubuse cleaned out his closet (literally) and replaced his jeans and tees with tailored suits to go with his new image.
“I didn’t have a great upbringing,” yells Khulubuse to his son Mnqobi (Sipho Mdingi) during their argument in episode 5 because the ex-con abandoned their family. Khulubuse got involved with the bad crowd after Mnqobi’s mother Nokulunga (Sthandiwe Kgoroge) cheated on him. He felt inadequate and tried to prove himself by joining thug Pacino’s (Nkosinathi “Nay Maps” Maphalala) gang.
Pacino is feared in the community. Although he’ll occasionally joke around, when it comes to money, he isn’t laughing.
“The people in this community used to laugh at me and my mother. They said that I’d never amount to anything. I was desperate,” adds Khulubuse with tears in his eyes. But his plans to leave his life of crime are interrupted when Pacino rings his doorbell and demands his share of the heist money – or else…
While the father-son duo are trying to establish their new business, Pacino is scheming to take over the pyramid scheme and make millions.
“Pacino wants his money. He doesn’t care how Khulubuse goes about it, he just wants to get rich,” says Nay.
Pacino is feared in the community. Although he’ll occasionally joke around, when it comes to money, he isn’t laughing. “For Pacino, there’s no other way but living the life of crime. Breaking the law has been working for him up to now and it has given him greater returns, like the expensive clothes he wears and the luxury life he lives.”
To get into character, Nay channelled a career criminal similar to Pacino from his childhood.
“I referenced a young man who was a dangerous criminal in townships and remembered how he was so charming and unsuspecting of criminal activities,” explains the actor.
“I also read up on ruthless criminals in Mamelodi and Alexandra townships. To get closer to the subject, I draw my inspiration from a character named Benny Blanco portrayed by John Leguizamo from crime drama Carlito’s Way (1993). He was brutal.”
The danger zone
To pay off his debt to Pacino, Khulubuse manipulates his son into joining the Impilo pyramid scheme. His plans are to recruit their neighbours to invest their hard-earned money, then make it disappear into their pockets.
With a criminal record, no one trusts Khulubuse, but they’re willing to listen to an impressionable teenager. “They are going to learn that crime doesn’t pay. Instant gratification might be thrilling but it isn’t viable, nor is it effective,” says Nay.
Khulubuse isn’t the only one benefitting from the pyramid scheme. Mnqobi’s mother was wrongly accused for breaking into a dry-cleaning shop and he’s offered to help pay her legal fees after she was fired from her job. He’s also trying to cover his terminally ill brother’s hospital bills.
In a way, Khulubuse is like a modern-day Robin Hood… except he’s not just stealing from the rich – anyone is fair game.