Actress to portray gangster moll Grace Chauke

2017-03-12 14:57

Actress Mbali Maphumulo is taking on her first leading role in a movie to be released in March next year.

She plays Grace, the wife of notorious cash-in-transit robber Collen Chauke – once the country’s most wanted fugitive – in a movie based on Chauke’s life, called State Enemy No. 1.

Chauke died in 2003 of an undisclosed illness in Kalafong Hospital in Atteridgeville, western Pretoria, while serving a 20-year prison sentence.

A former freedom fighter for the ANC, Chauke went rogue after the country’s liberation.

He formed a gang to accumulate the riches he believed he deserved, after having sacrificed his youth to the liberation struggle, and masterminded a spate of murders and robberies.

In 2001, Chauke was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of robbing R12.6 million from a depot of the SBV security company in Pretoria in October 1997.

Police also suspected him of being the mastermind behind 17 murders and 30 cash-in-transit heists in which a total of R82 million was stolen.

He escaped from the maximum security C-Max prison in Pretoria, along with five other inmates, in December 1997 and succeeded in evading police capture for more than a year.

He was finally rearrested in January 1999, and a further five years was added to his 15-year jail term.

Maphumulo, who is married to renowned deejay and record producer Black Coffee, told City Press of her excitement at being involved in such a dramatic story which forms part of the country’s rich history.

“The fact that it is based on the truth is even more mind-blowing,” she said.

She co-stars with well-known actor Mduduzi Mabaso, who portrays Chauke, and describes Grace as a hard-working, smart young woman who worked at the then Johannesburg Stock Exchange (now the JSE).

“She knew what she wanted in life and was focused. I loved the love story between her and Collen.”

How did she prepare for the role? By doing lots of research, she said.

“Grace now lives in Swaziland and, unfortunately, I was unable to meet her and learn from her, but my research gave me a clear picture of her,” she said.

Maphumulo said what affected her most about Grace was the choices she made, adding that audiences should guard against being too judgemental of the character.

She admitted that there were challenges she had to overcome in portraying Grace. “Playing a real person who I had never met was a challenge, but one that I was happy to accept.”

The film is produced by Elvis Nkosi and directed by Zuko Nodada.

Nkosi, a self-taught writer, said he had been working on the film since 2009.

“I am emotionally connected to Collen Chauke’s story. I want to make movies that compel people to discuss them afterwards."

Maphumulo has started 2017 on a bright and busy note.

In addition to her upcoming role on the big screen, she features in a new TV drama series, called Broken Vows, playing Azania, a wedding planner.

The show kicks off on on April 10.

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