The best of South Africa in March 2024: 9 must-see Showmax Originals

18 March 2024

The best of South Africa in March 2024: 9 must-see Showmax Originals

FX CEO John Landgraf recently declared Peak TV, a term he coined, officially over. But while globally production is down, Showmax’s local content lineup has never looked stronger. More than 1 300 hours of new Showmax Originals will be released in 2024 across Africa so viewers will be able to watch an average of more than 3.5 hours of fresh local content on Showmax every day of the year. 

Here are the current highlights – arguably the strongest local TV lineup ever. 

Tracking Thabo Bester | Showmax Original | Binge from 22 March

On Friday, 15 March 2024, Tracking Thabo Bester racked up the most first-day views of any documentary on Showmax ever, well ahead of the previous record-holder, Rosemary’s Hitlist. The true-crime documentary was also the most-watched title across all genres over the weekend and received rave reviews, with IOL’s Oluthando Keteyi calling it “jawdropping” and Rapport’s Leon van Nierop describing it as “angry, bizarre, brilliant.”

Tracking Thabo Bester is the true-crime documentary South Africa has been asking for, ever since GroundUp first broke the news that the convicted murderer and rapist did not die in Cell 35 after all and was instead shopping at Woolworths in Sandton City. 

Thabo Bester was the most searched person in South Africa on Google in 2023, with his co-accused Dr Nandipha Magudumana just behind in fourth place, as the whole country obsessed over their stormy tale of love, murder, corruption and deception. Daily Maverick named them both ‘SA Villain of the Year.’

With the trial of South Africa’s most famous prison break scheduled to start in June 2024, Tracking Thabo Bester is a timely four-part investigation into Thabo Bester; why he was called the Facebook rapist and in jail originally; how a celebrity doctor fell for a convicted criminal; and who really died in Cell 35. 

Tracking Thabo Bester is produced by multi-award winners IdeaCandy (Rosemary’s Hitlist, Devilsdorp, Steinheist) and directed by Nikki Comninos (Convict Conman). 

Catch Me A Killer S1 | Showmax Original | New episodes on Wednesdays

Showmax content is on a roll. After Spinners became the first African series at Canneseries last year, next week Catch Me A Killer will become the first series entirely shot in South Africa in competition at Series Mania.” Billed as “Europe’s biggest TV festival” by Variety, Series Mania runs from 19-21 March in Lille, France. 

In addition, South African Warren Gray recently won Best Production Design at the British Film Designers’ Guild for his work recreating 90s South Africa. For context, other winners there included Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Saltburn and Silo.

Abacus Media Rights has already sold Catch Me A Killer widely, with deals confirmed for BritBox North America, SBS Australia, UKTV’s Alibi channel, AXN’s Mystery Channel/NHK Enterprises (NEP) in Japan, BBC First in Benelux and Poland and Cosmote TV Greece, among others. 

Charlotte Hope, who played Myranda in Game of Thrones and headlined Starz’s The Spanish Princess as Catherine of Aragon, stars in Catch Me a Killer as Micki Pistorius, South Africa’s first-ever serial-killer profiler. Catch Me A Killer traces Pistorius’ quest, as a newly-qualified forensic psychologist, to track down South Africa’s most feared killers. Each episode looks at another of her cases, from the Station Strangler to Stewart ‘Boetie Boer’ Wilken.

In his four-star review in Rapport, Leon van Nierop writes, “Showmax hits the jackpot again with a dark, creepy but highly realistic adaptation of Micki Pistorius’s Catch Me a Killer… It’s one of the best true crime series ever.”

Original Sin: My Son The Killer | Showmax Original | Stream from Friday, 22 March 

Original Sin follows Thea Pretorius, the mother of Gerhard Jansen van Vuuren, who murdered his 25-year-old girlfriend Andrea Venter in front of her neighbours, security guards and CCTV cameras. He then escaped authorities in South Africa and Brazil for years, assuming three different identities and starting families with multiple women. After initially helping him escape, Thea slowly had to come to terms with her son being a killer. As she admits in the trailer, “He’s capable of worse things.” 

“Every 63 seconds a woman becomes a victim of gender-based violence in South Africa,” says director John Gutierrez, whose debut feature Sons of the Sea was named Best South African Film at the Durban International Film Festival. “Before Andrea was murdered, she was hunted by Gerhard. She did everything that could be expected of her, including filing a restraining order and moving cities, but it wasn’t enough.”

The documentary feature is a co-production between Showmax, Rogan Productions (BAFTA winner Uprising, BAFTA nominees Freddie Mercury: The Final Act and Putin: A Russian Spy Story), and The Electric Shadow Company (BAFTA nominee McQueen, Hot Docs Jury winner Name Me Lawand), in association with Combined Artists (Strangers You Know, Carte Blanche) and Red Earth  (Narcoworld: Dope Stories). 

Abacus Media Rights is handling international sales.

Koek S1 | Showmax Original |New episodes on Thursdays

When Cape Town housewife Christelle Smit discovers evidence her husband is having an affair with a stripper named Candy Floss, her investigation takes her to a world poles apart from the suburban utopia she knows.

Cindy Swanepoel, who won SAFTA and Silwerskerm awards last year as Annelize in Binnelanders, stars in Koek as Christelle, with screen legend Sandra Prinsloo as the brandy-drinking, cigar-smoking, leopard-print loving, kidney-stealing mob boss she’s soon in debt to.

As Leroy Marc raved on Kaya 959, “Koek had me at the edge of my seat… It’s really, really fun. Loved it, loved it, loved it, and it’s so unexpected. Do it; you’ll love me forever.” Or as Tat Wolfen put it on Mix FM, Koek is “a gobsmacking rollercoaster ride.” 

Written by SAFTA and Silwerskerm-winning showrunner Christiaan Olwagen (Kanarie, Recipes for Love & Murder), the R18 crime comedy is directed and filmed by Johannes Pieter Nel (Magda Louw), who Leon van Nierop described as “one of South Africa’s most promising young talents” in his rave review in Rapport.  

The stacked cast includes Silwerskerm winners Stian Bam (The Story of Racheltjie de Beer), Jacques Bessenger (Donkerbos) and Dawid Minnaar (Legacy)  as well as SAFTA nominees Ashley de Lange (G.I.L.) and Vinette Ebrahim (Barakat, Skemerdans), not to mention Llandi Beeslar (Ekstra Medium) and Clayton Evertson (Spinners) in scene-stealing performances.

Red Ink S1 | Showmax Original | New episodes on Tuesdays until 19 March

Based on Angela Makholwa-Moabelo’s bestselling novel, Red Ink tells the story of a journalist turned publicist, Lucy Khambule, who is approached by an imprisoned serial killer to tell his story.

As Debashine Thangevelo writes on IOL, “To say I was blown away by what I’ve seen of Red Ink.. would be a gross understatement… The South African TV and film landscape has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. So much so that it can longer be compared to Hollywood… Simply put, we are no longer followers but pioneers in our storytelling.” 

SAFTA nominee Nqobile Nunu Khumalo (Nqobile, The Herd) plays Lucy, with SAFTA winner Bonko Khoza (Mqhele in The Wife) as Napoleon Dingiswayo, nicknamed The Butcher of Soweto by the media. Thangevelo says their performances are “mind-blowing.” 

Red Ink is a partnership between Makholwa’s Britespark Films and Bomb Productions. This marks the first Showmax Original from Bomb, who made DStv’s most-watched drama ever, Shaka ILembe, as well as classics like Venice winner Yizo Yizo, Oscar nominee Mandela, Sundance winner Amandla: A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony and SAFTA winners like Isibaya.

Red Ink reunites Khoza on screen with two of the other Zulu brothers from The Wife: DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice winners Kwenzo Ngcobo (Qhawe) and Abdul Khoza (Nqoba). The all-star cast also includes SAFTA winners Lorcia Cooper (Lockdown), Bongile Mantsai (Inxeba: The Wound), and Jo-Anne Reyneke (Black Tax), and the likes of Tsholofelo Maseko (Intersexions). 

Youngins S1 | Showmax Original | Three episodes every Thursday

Tshedza Pictures (Adulting S1-2, Outlaws) has created its third hit in a row for Showmax with their first teen drama, Youngins, praised as a “nerve-wracking drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat” by Thapelo Ramorobi in City Press and as “a wild ride full of fun, danger, sex and violence” by Aaron Akinyemi on BBC. 

Ayakha Ntunja (Thembi on MTV Shuga S3), Kealeboga Masango (Zinhle on Rhythm City), Toka Mtabane (young Tau on Five Fingers for Marseilles), Thabiso Ramotshela (Morena on The River) and newcomer Lebohang Lephatsoana lead the young cast. As Oluthando Keteyi writes for IOL, “Youngins introduces South African audiences to a vibrant wave of fresh talent.”

Also look out for the likes of SAFTA winner Loyiso MacDonald (Kagiso on The Queen) as Principal Mthembu, DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Award winner Sanna Mchunu (Zodwa on Gomora) as Matron Lulu, and Keneilwe Matidze (Petronella on Reyka) as Pearl “Miss SA” Buthelezi.

Thembi Mfebe (Adulting, Miseducation) is directing. 

The Illuminated | Showmax Original | New episodes on Wednesdays 

The Illuminated is a Showmax Original documentary series exploring different South African beliefs. 

This Wednesday’s episode focuses in Christ In Me Collective, following on from episodes on Israelvisie and The Church of Scientology. Upcoming episodes will look at network marketing businesses and corporate transformational coaching, which have some similarities with religious groups; KwaSizabantu; new evangelical churches; Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries; and The Fellowship in Hermanus. 

The series finale explores the story of Hardus and Nicolette Lotter, who were  convicted of murdering their parents at the encouragement of Nicolette’s boyfriend, Matthew Naidoo, who the court found had manipulated the siblings into believing he was the third son of God. 

The Illuminated is produced by POP24, the production company behind true-crime series like Imibuzo and Huisgenoot Ware Lewensdramas. POP24 also produced reality series like This Body Works For Me, The Mommy Club, and Bae Beyond Borders, which were in the top 10 most-watched local titles on Showmax in 2023. 

Wyfie S1 |Showmax Original | Two episodes every Tuesday

From multi-award winners Homebrew Films (Trompoppie, Magda Louw), Wyfie follows four mismatched first-year roommates at Pantera res at the fictional Eike university.

With SAFTA winner Johan Cronje (Wonderlus, Nêrens, Noord-Kaap) as series director, the R18 Showmax Original stars Beata Bena Green (Arendsvlei, Die Spreeus) as Shay, Celeste Loots (One Piece, Trompoppie) as Amanda, Kristen Raath (7de Laan) as Kyla and Mienke Ehlers (Dinge van ‘n Kind) as Mia. 

As Mart-Mari van der Merwe says in Klyntji, “Wyfie lifts the lid on what goes on in women’s hostels… A drama series with a title and content that will raise eyebrows.” Afrikaans TV site Terloops similarly calls it a “boundary-pushing Afrikaans series… a fantastic first in Afrikaans.” Tagged calls it “the lekker new Afrikaans TV show on everyone’s lips.” And Die Son says, “Wyfie won’t let you look away from your TV.”

Listen out for the haunting soundtrack from Peach van Pletzen, including the last recorded song from the hugely talented Angie Oeh, who tragically passed away from cancer in August 2023, aged just 24.

Musangwe | Showmax Original | Stream from Friday, 22 March

Fresh from its world premiere at Joburg Film Festival last month, Musangwe follows Takalani Masevhe, who wants to become a champion boxer but keeps trying to shortcut the process. While visiting his ailing grandmother in Venda, he discovers musangwe, a bare-knuckle fist fighting competition. Can he take the title, and the love of Lufuno, from Matome, the reigning champ?

Wiseman Zitha (Entangled) stars as Takalani, with Mulisa Mudau (Muvhango) as Lufuno and Tiisetso Thoka (The Herd) as Matome. Also look out for Phophi Mudau (Skeem Saam), Africa Movie Academy Award nominee Millicent Makhado (Muvhango), Elsie Rasalanavho (Muvhango), and Khathu Litshani, well-known on TikTok as DJ Khathu.  

Produced by The Milton Empire (Intlawulo, Mzali Wam), Musangwe is the debut feature film from Lufuno Nekhabambe, who was part of the SAFTA-winning directing team on Gomora and was also nominated twice for his work on Isithembiso

Plus, so much more…

Also look out for new seasons of Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards-nominated Showmax Originals from Kenya (Single Kiasi) and Nigeria (Flawsome, Wura), not to mention two seasons of Adulting now available to binge; smash-hit reality TV shows like The Mommy Club, The Real Housewives of Durban and Sports Wives; much-loved telenovelas like Gqeberha: The Empire, The River, Suidooster, and 1802: Love Defies Time; and wildlife content like Dr Mark’s Animal Show, featuring guest appearances from the likes of Davido.