Inspector Kenneth Baya Nkomo flourished every time he stood in front of the camera. Nkomo, one of the first actors that launched the Botswana Police Service (BPS) docu-drama Itshireletse ,was a natural born actor who never went through the doors of a lecture room to study theatre and its many dynamics. His versatility shone through the many characters that he played. He would often coax and hype his co-actors such as Onkemetse Modise and Inspector Oankgoga Oitsile to get into action once the director shouted action and give them tips on how they could tackle their roles.
Alongside his best pal, Sub Inspector Morris Lephogole otherwise known by the nickname Bandleng on the streets, the two often played the roles of criminals so perfectly that fans of Itshireletse often remarked how on the streets one could mistake them for real time criminals. The duo was often tasked with the roles of cheating unsuspecting members of the public through Obtaining by False Pretence and other roles in Burglary and Theft as well as armed robbery. And each and every week, they gave these roles their all. He would also shine when he was given the character of being a rape suspect or abusing his wife and children in Gender Based Violence.
But there was one role that he could never clinch. His director and producer, Senior Superintendent Near Bagali still chuckles when he remembers how Nkomo could never play the role of being a police officer despite the fact that it was bread and butter when he was away from the lights of the camera. “The day that I would tell him that today you are not raping, cheating anyone or breaking into anyone’s home and that he would instead be arresting suspects, would be the day when there would be mayhem on set,” says Bagali. He says that while in comparison to others, Nkomo was never blank and would sail through rehearsals but that the role of playing a police officer always put him in a tight corner. “He failed countless times to play the part that he does every day in front of the camera.
I eventually gave up that this was the one role that he could never clinch,” says Bagali. “But it was funny because when he was in his uniform, he was one of the best police officers, though we failed to grasp how he failed to act this part on camera,” he adds. The very first episode to air on BTV was in 2006. It tackled the issue of obtaining by false pretences starring Nkomo and Lephogole who played the roles of false prophets. In the episode, Nkomo traded by the name, Judas, a role that won him kudos from fans of the series. Eight years after this role aired on BTV, it still remains the one role that proved his mettle. Judas and Lephogole (Adam) cunningly convinced a victim that if she wanted her problems to disappear she needed to bring money to them.
The intention was that the duo would take the victim to a ‘holy’ mountain where they would pray for the money to double as well as get rid of her problems. Ever so creative when he was given such roles, the deceitful Judas would pretend that he was touching the victim, and claim that the many problems that the victims had were just too big and needed to be taken care of immediately. In his other roles in Gender Based Violence, he was given the role of a husband who was mistreating his wife, Tapudzani Titose and daughter, Onkemetse Modise. Instead of buying food groceries and paying school fees, he spent his salary elsewhere. “We have a big patch of land in the yard, I told you to plant vegetables in order to bring money into the house,” he told his wife.
In an interview, Lephogole tells BG Style that of all the episodes that they did together, he holds the very first episode of Itshireletse close to his heart. After all, he says it was this episode that really unearthed the abundant talent in the country. “That episode was a hit and really launched our careers on television. It generated so much conversation amongst the public,” he says. He also treasures another episode of armed robbery. In this episode, Nkomo called himself Bread Crust and was used to survey and ‘check the coast’ at the supermarket that they eventually robbed.
He says that working with his friend who was friendly and loved by everyone was a breeze. Itshireletse produced and directed by Bagali first aired in 2006. Today it has more than 100 episodes and has tackled many criminal offences that include Rape, Incest, Burglary and Theft as well as Poaching. Nkomo, Lephogole, Maureen Tshosa and Elina Tshwantsho were amongst the first actors that launched Itshireletse. The cast would grow to include the likes of Lucky Dube, Onkemetse Modise, Oankgoga Oitsile, Lebogang Rapulana, Catherine Koloi, and Justice Moilwa.