Sandra on the spit: A (medium) rare comedy feast…How the roast of Sandra Ndebele unfolded

25 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Sandra on the spit: A (medium) rare comedy feast…How the roast of Sandra Ndebele unfolded Sandra Ndebele

The Sunday News

Bruce NdlovuSunday Life Reporter 

WHEN Sandra Ndebele took to the stage during her roast on 17 February, some in the audience might have felt as if they were watching a victory lap than strut of a defeated roastee about to wave the white flag of surrender. 

For the previous few hours, Ndebele had been the proverbial butt of all jokes, as panellist after panellist lifted the lid on every facet of her life and derived maximum comedic pleasure as they did so. 

Everything from her politics to her music and even her body was touched. Nothing was off limits, as each panellist would approach the microphone with an arsenal of jokes that plunged the knife deeper than where the previous roast master had left it. 

However, when her turn came, Ndebele responded with the poise and humorous grace of a seasoned stand-up comedian. It was a fitting end to a successful night that showcased the best of Bulawayo, with Ndebele at the helm again unsurprisingly. 

“She was a great sport and we cannot take away the fact that she used the roast to own the narrative about all the press and media have said about her,” said Dalubuhle Sibanda of Umahlekisa Entertainment, who put together the event.

 “She cemented her relevance on the arts scene and also showcased her range as an artiste. Look at Sthandazile Dube who owned the night on the comedy stage despite the fact that she is a renowned poet. I won’t be surprised to her venturing into comedy in the near future because she showed that she is a natural.”  

While on the night, everything had seemed to fall into place seamlessly, for Umahlekisa founder, Ntando Van Moyo, the roast was the culmination of an idea that had been long in the works. 

“We actually approached different people and this was before elections (23 August 2023). We had wanted to do it as a campaign strategy for people that were taking part in the elections. People such as Mthuli (Ncube), Qhubani (Moyo) and such. We approached a lot of people but most of them were fearful but Sandra was the first person to take it up and say ‘guys, let’s do this.’ 


Mthuli Ncube

“We couldn’t do it before elections because she ended up being too busy. We had set it for November but unfortunately for November there were by-elections so we thought we would do it later on so it could serve as a celebration if she won the election. Sandra and her team were also very hands-on, suggesting people that they thought could serve on the panel. Some of the people came through, like Babongile (Sikhonjwa), came through but others were sceptical and didn’t come to the party,” he said.

Van Moyo said once Ndebele had signed on the dotted line, it was not hard to find seasoned roasters eager to cook her hide in public. As organisers, however, they were keen to sift through the chaff and separate those with genuine comedic intent from those that just wanted to trade insults. 

“Once we had secured a contract with her, it was easier to get other people on board. Other people who weren’t initially involved, like Carl, started campaigning to be a part of the roast and it helped us a lot. What we were looking for from panellists was the quality of delivery, quality of content and also people that would add value to the Sandra brand, to the Umahlekisa brand and to the concept of roasts. 

“We could tell that there were some people that just wanted to join the roast not for the comedy but just to insult. We had to do away with such people because we didn’t want anyone smuggling their personal or political agendas and tarnish what we were trying to do. And yes, Sandra was paid well in advance of the roast,” he said. 

For many, it was a surprise that Ndebele had actually agreed to be a “victim” of a gruelling roasting process. As a recently elected councilwoman, Ndebele is now one of the fabled “City Fathers”, or more appropriately in her case, mothers, and some thought this would make her even more vulnerable to the tsunami of sharp-edged jokes that awaited on the night. However, for those that have followed Ndebele through her career, this is the kind of thing she has done all her life and career. She has always danced where angels fear to tread. 

“I met Sandra when she transferred from Founders to Mpopoma High School and she approached me intending to do poetry during a talent show l organised with Albert Nyathi for all Matabeleland Schools,” narrated Nkululeko Dube of Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (Iyasa).

Albert Nyathi- image taken from NewsDay

 “She won the category and then asked to join the drama club. Sandra’s enthusiasm drove her to discover and rediscover herself many times. She had a life of a butterfly. She would try any challenge ahead of her. She immediately stood out of the team as one who would be innovative. 

“A dancer, an actor, a singer and all self-made, from her belief that she could be anything she wanted to be.  When Iyasa took off she played an amazing administrative role. Sandra was daring. So daring that when we were fundraising for our maiden international tour she convinced the school to allow her and others to sell boiled eggs and sandwiches to raise money for flights and visas. She was our top event organiser and would knock at people’s doors, banks, supermarkets and other business people in her school uniform to convince them to support our projects. She was not easy to ignore and stood out in her confidence. She was destined to be what she is today and l mean all of it,” he said. 

Dube said, because of her character, which allowed her to dust herself up and move on quickly whenever she fell down, there was no better candidate than Ndebele for the roast. 

“It was therefore no surprise that even during our international expeditions she just wowed people especially off stage. One thing she had an appetite for were ideas for making money and more money! It was no surprise that she was one of the first who requested to do solo projects out of Iyasa and immediately made waves. You would think her success would get into her head and make her pompous but not Sandra. 

“She has always had this strength of keeping calm even at the worst of pressure and sometimes terrible criticism. I have known Sandra since her teenage years but l cannot remember seeing her angry. Always quick to apologise and laugh off any situation that could put her down. How many people could handle comedy roasts like Sandra did? Sandra has also remained with roots in the ground, grounded despite her success,” Dube said. 

For Raisedon Baya, the roast and Ndebele’s entire career for that matter, were an example of how business acumen is a necessary bow in every artiste’s string.

Raisedon Baya

 “I would attribute her success to the fact that Sandra has a business mind. She is not your typical artiste who thinks that all they have to do is produce a hit album and people buy and that will sustain them. From an early age, I think she is someone who realised that an artiste should have more than one life. She realised that you have to do more, than create. You should network, interact with business outside the arts and dare to see yourself beyond Bulawayo. 

“I think we know her as someone who sees herself as an artiste that is bigger than Bulawayo and perhaps even bigger than Zimbabwe itself. I think that is something that has meant that she lives longer in terms of the industry. She is someone who also has realised the power of collaboration. She knows that alone, she can walk but with others, she can run. If you look in the past years and how many young people she has been able to collaborate with, from dancers to musicians, you will see how much she values collaboration. I think this is something that we can all learn from her after this roast,” he said. 

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