Ambitions shines a light on displaced communities in SA 

Zikhona Bali as young journalist, Qhawe Ledwaba in Ambitions

The South African government has a history of displacing the inhabitants of poorer communities. Often these people are promised compensation and/or better housing for the trouble caused in uprooting their lives and families. However, more often than not, these prove to be false promises.

e-Extra recently introduced a new locally-produced show, exclusive to its channel, titled Ambitions – a captivating drama that tells the story of a recently displaced community through the eyes of its people and an inquisitive young journalist who seeks to expose the truth.

In the thrilling drama series, the stakes are high as threats turn to murder, and we realise our heroine is out of her depth. “Ambitions is a social awareness drama that speaks to the damage corruption does to our society. We wish to explore how corruption serves the individual at the expense of the community and how detrimental that can be to our newly formed democracy,” informs creative producer of the show, Roberta Durrant.

The series follows the journey of a young journalist and heroine, Qhawe Ledwaba, played by Zikhona Bali. Ledwaba is eager to kickstart her career as an investigative journalist when she discovers that the displaced community of Supingstad is living in squalor on the back of broken promises by their government.

Ledwaba learns that the community has yet to receive the housing and facilities promised to them as compensation for their removal from their informal settlement to make way for the building of a new clinic. The budding journalist sweeps into action, in an effort to find out who is involved, and get justice for the displaced community.

“On the surface, Qhawe espouses a devotion to the truth and to promoting justice and equality: ideals she was raised with by her struggle-activist mother, Lulama Ledwaba. But as we soon learn, her relationship with the truth, and her motivation as a journalist is a lot more complicated than that,” shares Durrant.

The television series stars the legendary Mary Twala, as Gogo Lizzie, and features several local talents that have established their careers on the small screen including Kagiso Modupe, Nokhuthula Ledwaba, Yonda Thomas, Luzuko Nteleko, Peter Se-Puma and Thulani Khubeka.

As Ledwaba and the Supingstad community members mobilise to confront the corrupt system and its tenderpreneurs, the wicked businessmen attempt to silence them with threats, manipulation and murder. However, defiant Ledwaba and the united Supingstad community are not such willing pushovers.

Through the drama series, Durrant aims to showcase the right of a free press in a democratic country, while paying tribute to the bravery of some members of our press who have put their lives at risk to tell the truth and uncover corruption. The show also highlights the far-reaching effects of corruption and state capture.

Ambitions was shot on the Sony F55 camera with prime lenses. Wanting to portray life as it truly is in these situations, Durrant and her team chose to shoot on location in and around Johannesburg; in the R59 informal settlement, Johannesburg CBD, as well as the northern suburbs. “We wanted to portray life as it truly is, without false distortions, stylisations of idealisations… We achieved this by applying different levels of grittiness to individual spaces, environments and characters. We captured the realism within this world of power, corruption, ambition and loyalty,” shares Durrant.

“The camera movement is both subtle and aggressive depending on each scene. The floating camera suggests an uneasiness and allows the camera to take on an investigative approach as we move through the story. There is energy in both the urban and rural worlds that is amplified by allowing the camera to be both objective and subjective as we move with characters through their spaces in this world. We broke the classic composition with a more uncomfortable and aggressive approach,” adds Durrant.

The entire series was shot from August 2017 to December 2017. Production and post-production duties were handled by Paw Paw Films.

Season one consists of 26 episodes, which run for 46 minutes each. Ambitions premiered on 1 July at 21h00 and airs every Sunday evening, with repeats on Wednesdays at 21h30.

“We hope the viewer is entertained, I think broadcasters are nervous of political thrillers not being appealing to the audience, but in fact, I think the opposite is true some of the best ground-breaking shows worldwide have been political thrillers. So we are pleased took a chance on this, and the show is doing well,” concludes Durrant.



  • Camera: Sony F55

Ambitions was shot on the Sony F55 camera


  • Producer: Roberta Durrant
  • Director: Catherine Stewart
  • DOP: Jonathan de La Querra


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