Biography: Israel Matseke Zulu (born Israel Sipho Makoe Matseke-Zulu) is a South African actor best known for his role as GP in the SABC1 drama series Gaz’lam from 2002 to 2005. He has also starred in several motion pictures, such as Tsotsi, iNumber Number, Four Corners, Hard to Get and Gomora. He is also a director for the Alexandra-based theatre group Ishoshovi.
Early Life and Background
Israel Matseke Zulu was born in 1974 in the Alexandra Township near Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the second-eldest of five children in his family. He grew up aspiring to be famous and was influenced by the likes of Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. Israel attended the Gordon Combined School, but he dropped out in 1988 and took to a life of crime. He was involved in house robberies, car hijackings and drug dealing. He was arrested in 1996 and sentenced to eight years in prison at the Johannesburg Prison.
Israel Matseke Zulu Career and Achievements
While in prison, Israel Matseke Zulu discovered his passion for acting, poetry and music. He formed the Abaqobi Drama Group with other inmates and performed for the prison authorities and visitors. He also wrote poems and songs that reflected his life experiences and social issues.
Israel was released in 1999 and joined the Victory Sonqoba Theatre Company, where he got the opportunity to audition for the award-winning SABC1 drama series Yizo Yizo. He landed the role of a gangster named Stix and made his television debut in 2001.
In 2002, he was cast as GP, the main antagonist and a ruthless crime boss, in the SABC1 drama series Gaz’lam. His performance earned him critical acclaim and popularity among the viewers. The actor reprised his role in the second, third and fourth seasons of the show, which ran until 2005. Israel also appeared in other television shows, such as Zone 14, Soul City, Rhythm City, Intersexions, Mzansi Love, Zabalaza, Z’bondiwe, Isibaya, iNumber Number and Gomora. In 2023, he joined etv series Nikiwe.
Israel Matseke Zulu also ventured into the film industry and starred in several motion pictures, such as Tsotsi (2005), a crime drama that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; iNumber Number (2013), a heist thriller that was adapted into a television series; Four Corners (2013), a gangster drama that was South Africa’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; Hard to Get (2014), a romantic action comedy; and Gomora (2020), a crime drama that he had to exit due to his health issues.
Israel is also a director for the Alexandra-based theatre group Ishoshovi, which he founded in 2006. He has directed and produced several plays, such as The Last Supper, The Return of the King, The Rise and Fall of the Black Messiah and The Story of the African Child. He is also a poet, singer and dancer who has performed at various events and festivals, such as the Arts Alive Festival, the Jozi Spoken Word Festival, the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Israel Matseke Zulu Personal Life
Matseke Zulu is not married, but he has a son named Israel Junior, who was born in 2009. He also had another son named Sipho, who was born in 1997 and died in 2011 after a friend stabbed him. The actor has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. He is a Christian and believes that God has a purpose for his life.
In 2021, Israel Matseke Zulu was diagnosed with gangrene, a serious infection that causes tissue death, in his left leg. He initially refused to go to the hospital and tried to treat himself with traditional medicine. However, his condition worsened and he had to undergo surgery to amputate his leg below the knee.
Israel spent four weeks in the hospital and had to use a wheelchair and crutches to move around. He also had to leave his role as Don in the Mzansi Magic soapie Gomora because of his illness. He has since recovered and is learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. Israel has also expressed his gratitude to his fans, friends and family for their support and prayers.