Is Netflix’s Kings of Jo’burg Based on a True Story?

Netflix’s ‘Kings Of Jo’burg’ is an underrated crime thriller show from South Africa, packed with family drama, supernatural elements, and a unique tale of two brothers. The story unfolds in the streets of Johannesburg, where crime rates are high, and people go to any leaps and bounds to maintain their power. The Masire brothers reach mafia status in this blood-ridden city, but it comes with a price. Mogomotsi AKA Mo (Zolisa Xaluva), serves a long sentence in prison while his brother, Simon AKA Vader (Shona Ferguson), indulges in worshipping supernatural entities and human sacrifice.

Their interests no longer align, which leads to a crack in their relationship and an endless stream of deceit, crime, and betrayal. The show was created by the late Shona Ferguson (Vader), a creative force to reckon with, who left no stone unturned in nailing the crime and mystical elements of the narrative. So, if you were engrossed in this dark and treacherous world, you might wonder how much of it is rooted in reality. Let’s probe deeper and learn whether ‘Kings of Jo’burg’ is based on a true story!

Is Kings Of Jo’burg a True Story?

No, ‘Kings Of Jo’burg’ is not a true story. It’s a brave work of fiction wherein Shona Ferguson intermingled folklore from his childhood with another thrilling aspect, i.e., crime and familial drama. In an interview, he revealed the inspiration for his series’ paranormal elements. He said, “It goes back to our childhood, where we had our parents tell us these stories. My dad used to tell us very scary stories. So it is going back to how he used to tell these stories of the demons and how certain influential people had supernatural powers.”

Shona also described how he integrated these stories into his narrative, saying, “The way the stories were told was not necessarily how we are portraying it on screen; I took the essence of those deep, dark secrets and stories and turned it into a more fictional, relatable world and set it in Johannesburg.” In the series, Simon Masire is involved in the occult and worships a mermaid. The mythical creature is their family’s former deity and is now exploited by him for power and wealth. However, a human sacrifice must be made to extract these powers.

The natives of South Africa will immediately recognize this being as “Mamlambo,” a mythical deity that is believed to shapeshift into mermaids and other forms to lure one into its trap and make one power-hungry. In the world of witchcraft, the practitioners sacrifice animals and humans to sustain their pact with this entity. Even though there is no scientific evidence for the wealth-giving mermaid, people have found a way to monetize this practice and make a fortune from this urban legend.

In these fictional stories, the creatures are primarily white-skinned and often associated with the status and fortune of western culture. If we read between the lines, their superstitious beliefs stem from a harrowing past of suppression, so wanting to live the affluent lifestyle through any means seems like a natural response. Apart from the supernatural aspect, the creator chose Johannesburg as the prime location for his story because it has fostered gangster culture since the Apartheid era.

In the 1980s, the crime rates skyrocketed, and people in the central areas were relocating for their safety. The government also received the help of a former New York City mayor to strategically lower the crimes because they were hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. So, it is evident that ‘Kings Of Jo’burg’ is not based on a true story. Nevertheless, it’s an amalgamation of popular mythical narratives and reflects the reality of the crime scene in Johannesburg.

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