‘My father was a violent man’ – Vuyo Dabula on his upbringing
Vuyo Dabula (PHOTO: Gallo/Getty Images)
In a nutshell, Tau – on eof the main
characters in the movie – wants redemption. The threat of danger and violence
is ever present for Tau and his friends and he always dreamt of the day he’d
escape it all. But it wasn’t to be: Tau killed two cops and fled his hometown
of Marseilles, a bleak town beset by squatter camps where survival is a daily
battle for residents. He ends up in a Joburg prison then returns to Marseilles
to fight for freedom.
The violent backdrop of Tau’s life never
goes away and Vuyo says he can relate to that.
The 41-year-old star also grew up in a
small town – Lomanyaneng near Mafikeng in the North West – and violence is
something he can identify with on a deeply personal level. His father, who died
in his sleep two years ago, was a troubled man who “went through things in his
childhood that had an impact on his life as a father”.
“My father was pretty much like Tau,” Vuyo
tells DRUM. “He was a great guy but he had his demons. There are things I hold
in my heart – my burdens – that helped me play the role. I used my personal
troubles as tools to play my character.”
Vuyo, the second-born of four children,
loved his father but he “saw him inflict a great deal of violence on people”.
He was a complex man, he adds. “When I remember my relationship with my father
I recall a bitter-yet-sweet place. “I saw him cook the best African meal.
But I also saw him being violent towards others.”
In the face of danger his father was
fearless – just like Tau, Vuyo says.
He recounts an incident in his childhood
that involved his dad. In his neighbourhood there were “many mentally disturbed
“Strangers would walk into someone’s home
and do as they pleased with the woman of the house.” This happened in his
family home when he was in his teens. “One day a guy walked into our house,
chatted to my mother then grabbed her violently by the arm.”
When Vuyo’s dad, a railway worker, heard
about this he went to find the stranger and beat and kicked him “unbelievably
badly with his steel-tipped boots. Then my father went to get his knobkerrie.”
People joined forces to stop his father from killing the man and gave the
attacker a chance to flee.
“My father would have finished him off
because he loved his wife and children dearly – despite his weakness.” That
weakness is what he used to sometimes hit Vuyo’s mom. “He was cool but he was
angry,” he says.
“I loved him and I regret never telling him
that. Growing up I didn’t understand his love.”
He says there’s a part of him that’s like
his father. “But we’re from different generations. I’ve been tested here and
there physically in fights but luckily I’ve never lost control. “I’ve learnt to
assess situations and to walk away because I know I have a side that is like my
father. But I’ve learnt not to be impulsive and to control my temper.” He
attributes his presence of mind to the fact he’s surrounded by “really good
people. I have support and guidance from a circle of close friends.”
The good his dad passed onto him include
his spirituality, Vuyo adds – something he continues to draw from. “My dad
observed culture and consulted spiritual healers. I’m also very spiritual – a
lot of things are making sense to me now. I have long periods where I want to
be removed from people and connect with my spiritual side.
“My father also taught me the importance of
soldiering on, even in tough times.” Since his career began over 15 years
ago Vuyo has faced many challenges – from not receiving the recognition he felt
he deserved when he was acting in movies to getting too much attention when he
landed his first big TV role as Gadaffi in Generations: The Legacy.
of his early movies was Soldiers of the Rock with the late singer Lebo Mathosa
in 2003, but he says it took a while before people started noticing him in the
Last year he told SowetanLive he believes a
“no-kissing clause” affected his career. When he landed the role of Tsetse in
the hit TV show Yizo Yizo in 2004 producer Angus Gibson was dumbfounded to
learn his lips were out of bounds. “He looked at me, perplexed. Here I was
being given my first role in TV in the biggest show at the time and he couldn’t
The no-kissing clause was both “a spiritual
and religious thing” and he believed it was the right choice. Roles in Zone 14
and Isidingo followed before he decided to abandon his stance. It was becoming
increasingly difficult for the Isidingo scriptwriters to develop storylines
without giving his character, lawyer Titus Lesenya, a love interest – and when
he joined the Generations cast he told his agent if kissing was required, he
would pucker up.
Trouble has had a way of finding Vuyo too –
a while ago there were complaints the actor was rude to his fans and didn’t
want to hug them. A female fan was especially irate when he reportedly told her
to “take a good bath and clean up nicely before asking for a hug”. “Generally,”
he said at the time, “I don’t give hugs.” Then there were the allegations he
was involved in a relationship with Onicca Moloi, the Limpopo MEC for arts,
sports and culture nicknamed “MEC Wodumo” because of her colourful lifestyle.
Vuyo dismisses these claims.
“I hear many things about me but I remain
true to myself,” he says. He’s sometimes a speaker at the MEC’s departmental
events but deals only with her office, he adds. “We aren’t friends, we don’t
speak on the phone. I’ve had very few encounters with her.” T
he married father of a two-year-old son,
Kitso, is determined to keep his private life out of the public eye. But he
does say this: he’s determined to instil love and respect in his little boy and
to show him right from wrong. The sins of his father have shown him how
important that is.