When Sayitsheni Mdakhi faded away from television screens, a mysterious aura surrounded his departure. However, a privileged group of insiders knew the truth – Mdakhi had chosen to transition from being in front of the camera to working behind it, taking on more significant responsibilities and exploring new creative avenues. Away from the bright lights and glamour of acting, he poured his soul into writing and producing several captivating television dramas. Today, his remarkable talent shines through his work, a testament to his enduring commitment to storytelling.

By Noko Mashilo

Just under three years ago, the South African entertainment industry witnessed the sudden and unexpected retirement of one of its most renowned actors, Sayitsheni Mdakhi, fondly known as Saddam or Damdam. He chose to step down from the limelight in a low-key manner, without any grand announcements or farewell parties.

Mdakhi’s exceptional acting skills in the popular television drama Isibaya did not go unnoticed. He skilfully portrayed a character with a unique inclination towards older women, leaving a lasting impression on viewers. His performance was a perfect blend of passion and precision, and it is no wonder he gained notable recognition for his work.

He has successfully transitioned into a position as a scriptwriter and producer, expressing his newfound perspective of considering himself as a conduit for effectively conveying stories under the guidance of God.

“Scriptwriting is experiencing different forms of being a human being. I get to tap into different personalities and characters. It is a very spiritual process for me. I do not write a script without lighting a white candle because I am writing about spirits and people who exist, even though I do not know those people. I just believe their characters are alive,” said Sayitsheni.

He revealed that he uses the strokes of his pen that are imbued with a quality to bring to life characters so vivid and authentic that one can’t help but see a reflection of oneself in those characters.

It is a unique talent that he seeks to exploit so that it can set him apart – the ability to weave complex personalities and emotions into his stories, creating a world that feels both real and fantastical at the same time. And even though his characters may not be based on real-life individuals, he makes them so compelling and relatable that audiences can’t help but be drawn into their world, entirely captivated by their struggles and triumphs.

Sayitsheni beautifully expressed that a spiritual mindset is the ultimate key to unlocking the doors of limitless creativity. According to him, it enables us to delve deeper into the creative space and discover unexplored ideas, thoughts, and emotions that can lead to exceptional outcomes.

“To enter into this zone, you need to be spiritual,” said Sayitsheni.

During the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days in 2020, Sayitsheni made his final appearance on the small screen. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile, he rekindled his on-screen love affair with the captivating Lillian, portrayed by the talented actress Linda Sebezo. Though their chemistry was undeniable, fate had other plans. Lillian’s heart was captured by someone new, leaving Sayitsheni to bid farewell to his adoring fans with a heavy heart.

From portraying Saddam in the hit TV series Isibaya, Sayitsheni’s talents have grown to encompass writing and producing. He lent his expertise as a story consultant to the show House of Zwide before moving into feature film production. His debut film, Induku, released under his own production banner, Mdarkie Revolution Production, is now available for viewing on Showmax.

Sayitsheni’s writing skills have also been in demand in the television industry. He has contributed as a scriptwriter to popular shows like Gomora and Umkhokha. He is busy writing for the SABC3 shows The Estate and Isifiso, which airs every Monday on Mzansi Magic.

It is inspiring to see how Sayitsheni has diversified his creative talents and has made a mark in multiple areas of the entertainment industry.

Sayitsheni was the head writer for the captivating 13-episode television series Uzulu noMhlaba. This thrilling show graced the screens of the Mzansi Magic network every Sunday, leaving viewers spellbound with its riveting plot twists, witty dialogue, and intriguing characters. As the primary scriptwriter, Sayitsheni’s creative genius brought the story to life, drawing audiences deeper into the action with each passing episode.

Uzulu noMhlaba had a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Ernest Ndlovu, Ayanda Borotho, and Nothando Ncobo.

Sayitsheni followed up Uzulu with an engaging four-part series, Pela Pela, which ran on Mzansi Magic.

The story follows a young man as he embarks on a mission to expose his father’s dubious business dealings with the help of an app he built himself.

In a beautiful display of collaboration, Sayitsheni and Vanishia Kisten joined forces to create a stunning 90-minute feature film called Umkhonto. The movie on Showmax features the talented Dumisani Dlamini in the lead role.

Sayitsheni expressed his admiration for Vanishia’s exceptional professional dedication and praised the significant progress they made together. Their collaborative efforts have yielded remarkable results, with Sayitsheni gushing about their unique synergy: “We are magic together.”

Sayitsheni is a talented behind-the-scenes professional who has teamed up with prolific writer Lunga Radebe to establish Stopnosens Media, a content creation company.

“We are currently working on two telenovelas and have a film in the pipeline,” said Sayitsheni. Together, they are skilled at diagnosing storylines and acting as “story doctors”. Additionally, they assist those who want to pitch their ideas to the mainstream media.

Lunga said that he is learning a lot from Sayitsheni. “What is interesting about us is that we finish each other’s sentences. The union has been a match made in heaven.

“We enjoy working together, and we are the recipients of magic,” said Lunga.

Sayitsheni stated that South Africans and the world will remember the suffering and pain brought by COVID-19. “During the hard lockdown, many people faced significant challenges.” “It could be financial difficulties, emotional and mental health challenges that caused anxiety, frustration, and isolation.”

However, he is adamant that the world is prepared for future pandemics due to well-established, effective surveillance and response systems: “If an outbreak occurs or a new variant emerges, it can be quickly flagged to a central health authority.

“Similar to the response to COVID-19, an alarm can be raised swiftly, and effective measures can be promptly implemented to help limit virus transmission.”

Sayitsheni credits his growth and success to Bomb Shelter Productions, particularly Desiree Markgraaff, who trained him while still with Isibaya.

“At Isibaya, I was an actor, writer, and junior producer.”

“I would handle product placement and production integration. Sometimes, I served as the bridge between the story room and the production office.

“This is where I gained a lot of experience.”

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