The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) were announced on Wednesday last week, amid a cloud of criticism. The organisers had technical challenges with virtual screening that saw the awards being announced very late at night.
Among those who were awarded is veteran actress Clementine Mosimane. She was awarded the Best Actress in Film award for her performance in a lead role playing Poppie Nongena.
The film, directed by Christiaan Olwagen, premiered at the annual Silwerskerm Festival in August 2019 where it won 12 awards including Best Feature Film, Best Script, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Ensemble Cast.
Based on the award-winning novel by Elsa Joubert, Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, the film depicts the true story of Ntombizodumo Eunice Msutwana-Ntsata and her struggle with the apartheid pass laws.
The gripping local film Poppie Nongena tells the story of an Afrikaans-speaking Xhosa woman whose life revolves around her family and finding stability in a period of immense upheaval in apartheid South Africa.
Clementine was a perfect fit for the role as her grandmother is an Afrikaans-speaking woman, born and raised in Cape Town. “My mother also spoke Afrikaans, so I grew up speaking the language with my Ouma. I really feel that this role was meant for me,” she says.
When Poppie’s husband Stone, played by Chris Gxalaba, becomes too ill to be able to continue working, Poppie becomes the family’s bread-winner, working as a domestic worker. According to the pass laws, she is seen as an immigrant in the Cape and is told that her permit cannot be renewed. She and her family will need to move to Transkei, to her husband’s homeland. Antoinette, Poppie’s employer played by Anna Van der Merwe, has compassion towards Poppie’s struggles and seeks to help her but even she, with all her privilege, cannot overcome the oppressive. degrading system of apartheid.
The film is layered with themes of patriarchy; injustice; discrimination and the legacy of apartheid — a system that wreaked havoc with black marriages and families. Nongena’s family was torn apart as her children were forced to leave for the Transkei while she remained in Cape Town to fight the system and to care for her ill husband.
Clementine Mosimane has received many awards through the years for her work. She has always credited God for all her successes in the entertainment industry. She says: “Acting is a calling and because it is a calling you have to be grounded. There was a time when I wanted to leave the industry and for some reason God did not allow me.
“Jobs just started to come in. This is a gift that God has given me. This is a talent and not only that, even when we are in the workplace, God has put us there in the marketplace to also promote and to teach the Word to those who need it.”
Even how she landed the leading role of Poppie Nongena, Clementine says that she just knew that the role was hers. During filming she relied on the Holy Spirit daily and her constant prayer was: “Holy Spirit be with me. I am a vessel. Thank you God for a wonderful day on set today. Thank you for carrying me through. Do it again for me tomorrow.” She says that prayer is her lifestyle. Often asked her secret to her longevity in the competitive entertainment industry, she says that it is because of God’s favour and grace in her life that has sustained her all these years.
Growing up wanting to be a doctor, Clementine believes she is a better doctor now although she is not a “scientific one”. Her start in television came when she was still at school. Talent scouts came to her school looking for Sotho-speaking presenters for their magazine television programme. “By the grace of God I presented the programme,” she says.
Looking back on how she started and how the industry was back then, she says: “The industry was so close, we worked together like a family. We were a family bonded together by love. We are lacking it in the industry today. It’s everybody for himself. That love is no more existing. We looked to God like no one’s business. Today people look at many things that are distracting them.”
She has played many roles and featured in many productions from acting in Soul City, The Wild, Isibaya, Gold Diggers and her latest role in Black Tax. Her ultimate dream role would be to play the iconic political figure Winnie Madikizela Mandela. About her latest role, Clementine says: “Poppie is a character that still resonates with women today. For me, it was an honour to play the role of Poppie and to tell the story of one woman amongst so many.
“When you look at this story again, it is not only about the political regime of that time, it is also about humanity,” she said.
Although she grew up in a Christian family, and attended church, Clementine says that she was not connected to God. “I did not know the Word. I was just going to church for the sake of going to church.”
After an invitation by one of the mothers in her neighbourhood, she started attending a charismatic church. “It is only then, I was exposed to an eternal God. The true God who says we have to have a relationship with Him. You can’t just be a Christian, go to church, mark the register and that is it. You need to have a relationship with God. I did the sinner’s prayer and that was the beginning of my marriage with Christ.”
This Kingdom-minded woman of God says: “When it comes to choosing roles I have decided that I will never play certain characters that are not going to be promoting God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. My purpose is not only acting. My purpose is to also spread the Gospel of God out there and that’s what I do. That is my purpose: to win souls for the kingdom of God. “
We are called to be salt and light and Clementine Mosimane is a shining light in the South African entertainment industry. Gateway News celebrates with her on her SAFTA win.