On episode 5 of Unfollowed on Showmax, Zoe Mthiyane tells host Thembekile Mrototo that she based Zitha Langa, her abusive character on Generations: The Legacy, on her ex, Lebo M.
“With that storyline, it was my character who’s abusing Smanga (Moopi Mothibeli),” she says. “I even… dipped into my personal experience and channelled him [Lebo M].”
Zoe tells Thembekile she met Lebo M while touring on The Lion King. When Lebo and Zoe’s daughter Lulonke was just eight months old, Lebo sent out a press release announcing the end of their engagement, citing disagreements over a prenup. Zoe clapped back, claiming that the relationship had become toxic. Unfollowed shows their back and forth on social media, which led to Lebo suing Zoe for R6 million in a 2016 defamation suit. “He was then bashing me on every single platform,” says Zoe.
“This interview is going to get me in s**t,” she says later in the frank interview.
Social media blew up again in December 2019 when Zoe was arrested for drunk driving, and in October 2020, when she was fired from Generations: The Legacy.
She claims that even her drunk driving arrest wasn’t what it seemed to be. “I’m talking about somebody who also has contacted the police. There’s police harassment. There’s court harassment. There’s journalistic harassment. A person who’s well-connected and powerful.”
In contrast, Zoe has only praise for series creator Mfundi Vundla, who she says sent her to therapy. She reveals that the Generations: The Legacy team did their best to help her when she was overwhelmed.
Zoe adds that rumours of her being drunk on set were sparked by a behind-the-scenes love triangle involving her, co-star Rapulana Seiphemo (Tau Mogale) and another woman in their circle. “That rumour came from the very person who then fell pregnant with my fun person, and her people in production,” says Zoe. “I knew I was being sabotaged. I knew they were trying to get me gone.”
Why call Zoe a drunk? “That started with my relationship with the father of my daughter. And that then becomes an easy narrative to reference,” she shrugs. “That has followed me ever since.”
Zoe speaks well of Robert Marawa, father of her son Awande. She credits Robert with being her protector within the entertainment industry for seven years before the two became involved. She also expresses a deep gratitude to his family for their support. “I met them at the time when I was pregnant and my mother had just died, and they came in to be family,” she reveals. “What it did to me emotionally, was go into postnatal depression, which I didn’t know was happening at that time. So trying to commit suicide while having a little newborn baby.”
In this week’s episode, Zoe also talks about how she dodged the casting couch, while media experts weigh in on how men in the entertainment industry withhold access to contacts and contracts to exploit young female artists sexually.
Each Wednesday, Unfollowed takes us to meet South African stars who are wrestling with life after social media death. Nomsa Philiso, CEO of MultiChoice’s general entertainment division, describes Unfollowed as an opportunity for us to reflect on cancel culture and its place in pop culture – a chance to interrogate whether it’s the best way to deal with people who have been deemed problematic. The show interviews public figures who were cancelled on social media and lets the viewer decide if the treatment in each case was deserved.
Watch Unfollowed S1 on Showmax, with new episodes on Wednesdays: https://www.showmax.com/eng/tvseries/doro4jr2-unfollowed
Watch trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ0naXETGDI
Main Image: Showmax