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What happens when wealth is left to the wrong sibling?

Grootboom & Sons explores the idea that protecting parents who have passed away painfully requires the severing of relationships with selfish or parasitic family members
Fri, Oct 22, 2021

“Blood is not always family,” a friend once counselled me during a particularly difficult time between me and siblings – all of us struggling to relate to each other after the loss of our mother. It’s been a couple of years since and it’s fair to say that the acclimatisation period has often been a harrowing one. Heavy is the spirit of the ‘responsible’ sibling.

On Mzansi Magic’s new drama series, Grootboom & Sons, Vuyo (Sibulele Gcilitshana) suddenly has to take over the family’s funeral parlour business after the death of patriarch, Andile Grootboom, despite being the youngest child. Her older sister Funeka (Zandile Msutwana), too reckless and selfish, left home for Cape Town even before their father’s funeral and conveniently makes a return when her sister is battling the worst symptoms of lupus.

Vuyo knows not to trust her older sister, but she would rather bequeath the family business to her callow sons, Mbulelo (Bongile Mantsai) and Zola (Mbasa Msongelo) than hand it over to her scheming sibling.

I found myself relating with Vuyo to no end during these first two weeks of the show, recognising the helplessness and the burden that’s always passed onto the mature child. She is desperate to make the right decision to protect her father’s heritage. But that often comes with the painful realisation that you may have to sever relationships with selfish or parasitic family members for the greater good.

It is teaching yourself day by day to sit in that discomfort, to be steadfast and maybe even ruthless, because that is the only way to not squander everything your parents broke their backs over.

This show asks: what happens to the fortunes of a family business that is left in the hands of the wrong sibling, particularly one who disappears for 15 years and only resurfaces when she sniffs an opportunity to grab the reins?

Suddenly, it hit me at the end of the second episode of Grootboom & Sons: Over the past couple of years, I have gravitated towards shows centred around heritage and the fierce power battles within broken families.

It is why I’ve never missed an episode of M-Net’s Legacy, and why I am so enthralled by Succession and the Roy family. Interestingly, Grootboom & Sons was preceded by Nqobile (also in the 8pm time slot on Mzansi Magic), which explores similar themes as the other aforementioned shows.

But while most of the characters in these families are quite despicable, something about the members of the Grootboom family feels different – they are less abominable and rather naive. They are far less cutthroat or concerned about trampling over their enemies but are more like confused fledglings which have a lot of growing up still to do.

Zola sleeps around and could drink anyone under the table (he could barely stand while attending his grandfather’s tombstone unveiling after another night out), while his aunt, Funeka spends half her time packing a suitcase and running from her problems. (Here, Msutwana plays a character I’ve never seen her play and it will take a while to get used to).

Mbulelo, meanwhile, believes the family is cursed and wants nothing to do with the family business – he is determined to attain his PhD and focus on his (unconvincing) relationship with Imani (Mangi Tebeka). Meanwhile, his mother has the air of someone who never got an opportunity to be young. In a nutshell, it all feels a little hopeless.

Having been first introduced to Msutwana and Gcilitshana as on-screen girlfriends a dozen years ago, it is a thrill to see them reunited and leading this predominantly isiXhosa production.

  • Watch Grootboom & Sons every Monday at 8pm on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161