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About us

Zabalaza Theatre Festival

Creativity, when given encouragement and opportunity, knows no limitation

Zabalaza is a Baxter Theatre Centre Development Programme that develops theatre practitioners from in and around the Western Cape by providing them with performance platforms so that they can realise their creative concepts. This is achieved through mini-festivals in target communities, script readings, showcases and a theatre festival held at the Baxter Theatre Centre annually in March.

The full name, Zabalaza Intsika eBaxter Theatre, loosely translated, means two things: striving towards being a pillar of the Baxter Theatre Centre and striving towards success.

Zabalaza management team

The team heading up the festival is Mdu Kweyama (artistic director) and Tshegofatso Mabutla (administrator). The core team is complemented by a number of fieldworkers/facilitators who assist on an ad-hoc basis in preparing works for the festival. These fieldworkers/facilitators consist of various artistic experts who play the role of mentors to these theatre groups leading up to the festival’s opening. In the past, we have had the privilege of working with renowned artists such as Faniswa Yisa, Mdu Kweyama, Gay Morris, Mzi Vava, Primrose Mrwebi, Mandisi Sindo, Stuart Palmer, Abdu Adams and Khayalethu Anthony to name a few.

The Zabalaza team intend to ensure that this premier development platform – arguably one of the top of its kind in South Africa – forms a fundamental part of the Baxter’s broader vision to be a vibrant and integrated cultural hub, reflecting the diversity of the country’s demographics for all its patrons, communities, artists and visitors.

South African and African themes are given voice and visibility through the Zabalaza activities.  

If you are interested in being part of the Festival you can e-mail us at baxterzabalaza@uct.ac.za or call the Zabalaza Office on (021) 680 3980.

Zabalaza process and programmes

The following activities occur over a 12-month period. Activities often run concurrently, therefore one cycle of activity may overlap with the next.

  1. Call to participate in the Zabalaza Theatre Festival

A call goes out annually around July for anyone who is interested in staging a production at the Zabalaza Theatre Festival.

  1. Auditions and revisits

All applicants from the Western Cape are contacted to arrange an audition/showcase session in which the team go to the applicants’ rehearsal spaces to watch a 15 – 30 minute audition piece and provide detailed feedback. Based on the outcomes of the audition process, selected groups/individuals are revisited and assessed on whether or not they have incorporated the feedback notes from the auditions.

  1. Community mini festivals

Selected productions are then invited to participate in mini festivals. These take place in various communities in and around the Western Cape. Mini festivals have been hosted in the communities of Robertson, Kraaifontein, Stellenbosch, Khayelitsha, Langa, Delft, Nyanga East and Athlone to name a few. Depending on the number of applications from each community, Zabalaza is committed to bringing mini festivals to as many of the communities across the province as possible. We strongly believe in taking the theatre to the people.

  1. Zabalaza Theatre Festival

The Zabalaza Theatre Festival takes over the Baxter Theatre Centre every March, invading all the Baxter’s spaces to create a festive atmosphere. Community theatre groups are given the opportunity to present their plays on a professional performance platform. Approximately 50 new theatre works, many of them in indigenous languages, are created annually.

Zabalaza and the Baxter Marketing team assist all participating productions to market their shows, however, participants are encouraged to take a BIG PART in the selling of their production as all the door takings go straight to the participants. The Baxter does not take any of the ticket sales. In the past, participants have been able to generate enough income to enable them to extend the life of their productions by re-staging it elsewhere or to create new productions.

Golden Arrow Bus Services provides transport for audiences to attend the festival at a very low cost (R5.00 – R10.00). Please note that these buses mainly operate during school hours. Should you required further information on the Golden Arrow buses please contact Carmen Kearns (carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za).

  1. Best of Zabalaza season

Every year one production is awarded the Best of Zabalaza. The winning production goes through a mentorship process to raise the standard of the work before it is mounted for a two week season at the Baxter. This provides the company with another opportunity to stage their work in a professional theatre with full logistical support.

Previous Winners of the Best of Zabalaza award:

2020:     First Accused by Mava Silimko

2019:     Joint winners Die 9de Maand by Tyron Zoutman and Ukuwa Kwe Nkaba by Mthombisi Mpandle

2018:     Onweer by Carlo Daniels

2017:     Boy Ntulikazi by Thobani Nzuza and Kagiso Tsimakwane

2016:     TIP-ex by Lauren Hannie

2015:     Fruit by Paul Noko

2014:     The Champion by Khayalethu Anthony (winner of the Fresh Award for Writing at the 2017 Cape Town Fringe Festival)

2013:     Skierlik by Phillip Dikotla (winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize)

2012:     Worst of Both Worlds by Bulelani Mabutyana

2011:     Uhlazo by Loyiso Damoyi

Most of the previous winning productions have had the opportunity to participate in other festivals and tour across South Africa, even been invited to participate in international festivals.

  1. Applicants from outside the Western Cape

Zabalaza’s focus is on the communities in and around the Western Cape as this is where we are based and where our main funders request that we utilize their grants. In the past we have been able to auditions productions in other provinces such as in the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg, but this is dependent on funding. Zabalaza has also been able to bring productions to participate in the festival from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Zabalaza encourages theatre-makers, who have funding, to bring their productions to the Zabalaza Theatre Festival. Some of the productions that have been awarded the Best of Zabalaza production and provided a professional season at the Baxter are:

2013 – Skierliek by Phillip Dikotla (Gauteng)

2015 – Fruit by Paul Noko (Gauteng)


  1. Programmes in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports

The Western Cape consists of six districts: City of Cape Town, Cape Winelands, Eden, Overberg, West Coast and Central Karoo. The Western Cape Department of Arts and Culture, together with Zabalaza, aims to create drama festivals in all of the districts. To date we have managed to create festivals in the following districts:

  • Cape Winelands
  • Eden
  • Overberg
  • West Coast

We would like to encourage more artists in the West Coast and Central Karoo to make sure that they take part in these exciting programmes as the Cape Winelands, Eden and Overberg Drama Festivals are growing every year. Should you be interested in participating in these festivals, please contact the DCAS Project Manager, Mr Moeniel Jacobs (Moeniel.Jacobs@westerncape.gov.za).

Every June we host a 3-day script-writing workshop, in which writers are invited to develop their skills. These writers are asked to go back to their communities and create productions to be staged in a showcase in August. Selected productions from the showcase are invited to attend another 3-day workshop in September, where the focus is on acting, directing and the development of their scripts.

The best productions from these showcases are awarded a place in the Zabalaza Theatre Festival programme. These productions also participate in the annual Suidoostefees at Artscape, and a select few are also granted the opportunity to participate in either the ABSA KKNK in Oudtshoorn or the Best of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

Zabalaza, in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports, have been nominating actors and actresses, who have won awards at the mini-festivals, to audition for cameo roles on well-known South African television productions such as 7de Laan and Suidooster. All those that have auditioned, have been awarded cameo roles:

2016:     William Michaels, Robyn September and Llewellyn Bond (Suidooster– Suidooster Production Company)

2014:     Thabiso Newman & Samantha Pienaar (7de Laan – Danie Odendaal Productions)

2013:     Olivia Pika & Julian van der Westhuizen (7de Laan – Danie Odendaal Productions)

2012:     William Michaels & Melloney Marais (7de Laan – Danie Odendaal Productions)


  1. Cape Town Fringe partnership

In 2015 Zabalaza formed a partnership with Cape Town Fringe whereby 3 to 4 productions would be selected annually from the Zabalaza Theatre Festival to participate in the Cape Town Fringe Festival that is held annually in September.

Previous Productions include:

  • Uhambo Lomhambi by Themba Baleni
  • The Champion by Khayalethu Anthony
  • Worst of Both Worlds by Bulelani Mabutyana
  • Secret Flames by Sisipho Mbopha
  • Egoli by Bongani Titana
  • Ndendile by Bongani Pontsana
  • Gelapte Pop
  • Addis Ababa
  • Ubudoda by Luntu Masiza
  • Muzo Kraal


Aims and objectives

  • To encourage and contribute to the development of new South African work by providing a platform for artists who want to venture into acting, stage management, writing and directing
  • To provide an ongoing skills programme in areas of theatre-making to upcoming artists
  • To identify raw talents in the community theatre groups and expose them to theatre of a professional standard
  • To promote and build a culture of attending theatre among new audiences
  • To provide mentorship/internships to deserving individuals (writers, directors, stage managers, actors, etc.) who would like to take up theatre as a career
  • To provide guidance and information where necessary to upcoming artists



  1. Identify and nurture talent:
    • Visit theatre groups and companies in and around Western Cape
    • Attend theatre festivals all over South Africa
  2. Build theatre audiences:
    • Encourage and build a culture of attending theatre for new audiences
    • Create full theatre experiences for audiences as well as performers
  3. Create performance platforms through the following activities:
    • Mini-festivals
    • Main Festival (with an award ceremony)
    • Community theatre group showcases, debates and career exhibitions
  4. Skills development workshops
    • Stage management
    • Script-writing/devising a production
    • Directing
    • Acting
    • Arts administration and management
    • Theatre design
    • Marketing
  5. Mentorship/Internship programmes:
    • Adopt/mentor a theatre group initiative
    • Joint productions
    • Young writers’ initiative (script development)
    • Best of Zabalaza season