‘Heart Of The Hunter’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Mtima Dead?


Directed by Mandla Dube, Heart of the Hunter is a South African action thriller that revolves around a retired assassin and the last job he had to take care of. Stopping corrupt politician Daza Mtima from becoming president was the need of the hour, and Zuko Khumalo was contacted by his ex-associate to help him with it. It had been years since Zuko retired from being an assassin. He decided to quit his job after realizing how his actions impacted those close to his targets. When the son of one of his targets witnessed the ruthless killing of his father, Zuko made up his mind to never kill another man. Zuko was living a happy life with his girlfriend, Malime Mambi, and her son, Pakamile. He planned on proposing Malime and had the ring ready in his pocket. But soon his life took a strange turn, and his dream of asking Malime’s hand for marriage remained a far-fetched dream.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Johnny Klein shoot himself?

Johnny and Zuko were members of a group of armed activists called Alkebulan, determined to eradicate corruption in South Africa. Johnny was once a popular lawyer and the Director of International Relations, but when Mtima was released from prison and gained power, Johnny got repeatedly demoted. Clearly, Johnny’s stance did not align with Mtima’s. He started a counterintelligence operation with elite assassins to take down Mtima, and Zuko was one of them.

Zuko was born to activist parents and had grown up to always voice for the right cause. He had taken an oath during his initiation in which he promised to fight for justice and to protect the innocent. Johnny Klein found hope when he got access to files that exposed Mtima. Johnny trusted Zuko to ensure that Mtima was exonerated, even though it had been a long time since Zuko had left the group.

Johnny was diagnosed with cancer, and he had Mtima’s PIA agents tracking his every movement. He knew that he was running out of time, and the truth would be buried with him if Mtima found him before he could connect with Zuko. With time running out, Johnny met Zuko at his workplace. Zuko was not ready to leave behind the beautiful life he had built and endanger the future he envisioned with Malime, but he had a change of heart upon finding out that Johnny was suffering from a terminal illness. Johnny handed him the key to the locker at the airport and instructed Zuko to head to Maseru, where he would find elders to show him the right path. Johnny distracted the PIA agents, while Zuko headed to the airport. Just when the agents thought they had succeeded in cornering Johnny, he shot himself and simultaneously jumped off the highway. Johnny had done his part for the welfare of South Africa. He had assigned Zuko the task of bringing out the truth, and he had also contacted Cape Town Sentinel journalist Mike Bressler, whose career Mtima had ruined during his investigation into the state capture.

What happened to Malime and Pakamile?

Zuko had no choice but to bid goodbye to Malime, knowing that their lives would be at risk if he continued to stay in touch with them. Malime never questioned Zuko about his past, but she could guess that he was in trouble when Johnny knocked at their door. Zuko chose not to disclose much about his life as an assassin, and when he suddenly decided to leave Malime was left wondering if he was just like all the other men who promised her the world but failed to live up to it. Pakamile and Zuko shared a beautiful relationship, and he looked up to Zuko. He was the only one who knew that Zuko planned on proposing Malime and when he left all of a sudden, Pakamile did not lose hope. He had complete faith in Zuko and he was confident that he would return to their lives and that they would be the happy family that they once were. Pakamile’s belief helped Malime not give up on her relationship.

One day, the PIA agents arrived at Malime’s house and forcefully dragged her out. They wanted to find out more about the files Johnny had, and they believed that kidnapping Malime would help them stop Zuko. Malime barely had any knowledge about her partner’s criminal past, but she tried to cooperate in the hopes of getting back to Pakamile. Naledi (Gemini), who was a member of the radical activist group, had infiltrated the PIA. Zuko contacted Naledi after he embarked on the mission. She advised him to focus on the task while she tried to find a way to make sure that his partner remained safe. She got in touch with Malime and tried to give her some hope. 

Unfortunately, Mo got a whiff of Naledi’s true identity and interrogated her. Naledi refused to give away any information, and she was taken away to be further tortured. Mo was unaware of how skilled a fighter Naledi was, and it was only a matter of minutes before she managed to tackle the guards. Naledi stuck to her promise to Zuko and before escaping, she tried her best to help Malime. Naledi assisted Malime in escaping, but the entire situation was too overwhelming for Malime. The chaos and confusion resulted in Malime failing to land after jumping off a building to save her life. Malime did not survive the fall, and Mo decided to kidnap Pakamile to keep Zuko under pressure. Pakamile was in extreme pain after losing his mother all of a sudden and being locked up in a tiny room without any contact with his loved ones.

Why was Mo working for Mtima?

The Director of the PIA (Presidential Intelligence Agency), Molebogeng Kwena, found out that the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Thandiwe Makeba, was also involved with Johnny and his group. The connection between Makeba and Johnny was something Mo was keen on finding out. She was surprised to learn that Mtima knew about Makeba’s involvement, and he also had incriminating evidence against the former minister for her involvement in illegal mining. But even with the evidence against her, Makeba continued to be a threat to Mtima, and Mo was instructed to silence her. Mo had too many tasks on her plate—she had to find Zuko, get access to Johnny’s files, and deal with Makeba. She had no choice but to obey Mtima because of her tainted past– her father was closely involved with the apartheid regime. Mo met Makeba to find out about Johnny’s plan, but all the former politician disclosed was that Mtima would lose everything he had built by Friday. 

Thandi believed that it was her duty to protect South Africa from people like Mtima, who would not mind selling the nation for their own benefit. She and Johnny had created a deadly weapon, Zuko, to ensure that the innocent would not suffer from injustice. Thandi hoped for Mo to side with the cause after finding out about their pure intention, but it was all too late for Mo; she was already knee-deep in helping Mtima. Mo struck Thandi with a blunt object, and the former minister bled to death. Zuko was the only hope now for the movement, and he continued to fight his way to ensure that the truth came out to the public.

Did Zuko expose Mtima?

Zuko felt reconnected with his ancestors when he reached Maseru and met the elders at the village. They tended to his wounds and handed him the letter Johnny had left for him. Zuko was reminded of the cause he was fighting for and how it was greater than everything else. He found the files Johnny had promised, and before releasing them to the public, he burned down the file of Alkebulan. Just when Zuko accepted his role in the grand scheme of things, Mo informed him how every member of the group had been compromised. Zuko was furious when he found out that Malime met with an accident and Pakamile was kidnapped. He realized that the only way to stop Mtima was by exposing him, and he contacted Mike Bressler to hand over the files Johnny had left. They secretly met at a restaurant, and before handing over the documents, Zuko laid forth a condition: he was desperate to be reunited with his family, and he hoped for Bressler to help him.

Bressler helped Zuko connect with Naledi, and it was from her that he found out about Malime’s death. Zuko realized that before destroying Mtima, it was important that he get his son back. Naledi had been keeping track of Mo, and she had located a cabin she frequented. Bressler recognized the cabin; it was where Mtima lived when he visited Cape Town. At the end of Heart of the Hunter, Zuko broke into Mtima’s cabin to seek his ultimate revenge.

Who killed Mtima?

With the spear handed to him by his elders, Zuko slayed Mtima’s guards one after the other. Mtima was easy to knock out, and by the time he came back to his senses, Zuko had his spear pressed on Mtima’s throat. The presidential hopeful was well aware that Zuko was desperate to get his son back, and he knew that he would not be harmed as long as he had Pakamile. Zuko instructed Mo to get his son back, and in the meantime, Mtima tried to lure Zuko with money. In his corrupt world, every man can be bought, but Zuko reminded him that not everyone is a traitor like him.

Mtima’s PIA agents arrived at the cabin, and what followed was an intense fight sequence where Zuko triumphed. Mo brought along Pakamile to stop Zuko and force him to hand over the files. Zuko explained that he had already handed over the files for printing, and Mtima’s political career was over. Mo was holding a gun, and she pointed it at Zuko. Mtima encouraged her to shoot him dead and prove to the world that she was not a traitor like her father. Mo crossed all boundaries, fearing being publicly shamed for her father’s association with the apartheid regime, but she realized that as long as Mtima lived, there would never be an end to her misery.

During Heart of the Hunter‘s ending, Mo shot Mtima dead. She wanted to kill Zuko as well, but Naledi came to his rescue. Mo was shot dead, and it was all over for Mtima and his supporters. The next morning, the murders of Daza Mtima and Molebogeng Kwena made it to the headlines. There were officially no suspects, suggesting that Zuko and Naledi had managed to walk away scot-free. The files Johnny had gathered made it to the public, and those involved in the State capture were apprehended. While some sense of justice was brought into the world, Zuko headed back to his childhood home at the Great Fish River with his son by his side. He wanted to live a life of a recluse and dedicate all his time to farming, just like he and Pakamile had always planned. Malime continued to be in their thoughts as the father and son got a second chance at life. Pakamile was Zuko’s only hope and respite, and hopefully, they would finally get to live the life they had always dreamed of.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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