Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 349
Woza Albert! is a play by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, and Barney Simon. The setting of the play is South Africa during the apartheid era. The play consists of two actors—co-writers Percy Mtwa and Mbongeni Ngema—playing several characters that depict the people of South African society.
Percy: Back to the bush with the baboons. That's where you belong!
This line is said when Mtwa is playing a white Colonel. The context of the quote is that the Colonel is harassing an innocent young black man (played by Ngema) because the latter did not have his identification card. The fact that Ngema's character was stopped in the first place shows the targeted harassment that black South Africans endured at the hands of white authorities. The venomous quote—although expressed with a humorous tone in the performance—shows the mentality of the oppressors towards the black population. The locals were perceived as animals that belonged in the "bush." Under the apartheid system, the government's strict system of control treated the black population like animals.
Percy: Morena, the saviour, is watching over you too, my friend.
The central character of the play is Morena, a black man who is believed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Morena is not only seen as a spiritual savior but also a liberator who might free the population from their oppressors.
In the prison scene, an inmate (played by Mtwa) sees a vision of Morena. The other prisoners don't see him, but Mtwa tells his fellow inmates that Morena is watching over them. However, it is clear that Morena was not attempting an intervention or a liberation. This raises doubts as to whether Morena actually exists. Furthermore, even if he does exist, his reincarnation as Jesus Christ does not change the lives of the black South Africans.
Additionally, by having Mtwa see Morena in the prison (which the other inmates find ridiculous), the playwrights subtly suggest that even the second coming of Christ—a black man who resembles the other inmates—is just as helpless as the prisoners.