Actor takes on M-Net in court – and loses out

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Thabiso Thakali

Television actor Tony Kgoroge has lost his court bid in which he claimed damages of more than R500 000 from pay TV channel M-Net over alleged breach of contract.

Kgoroge had launched the bid with the Johannesburg Labour Court claiming M-Net had dismissed him unfairly and in breach of a contract for his role in the daily drama,The Wild, last year.

He played the character of Tiro Lebone – a young millionaire – for about about a month in the show. He was on an R80 000 a month salary when he objected to a clause in his contract which stated that actors did not get any profit share for rebroadcasts of the show.

Kgoroge called for the clause to be removed because it was “onerous and exploitative” of his rights as an actor.

He claimed in court papers that, following his objections and a series of meetings, he was dismissed via an SMS which read: “We will no longer use your services as you refused to sign the letter of intent”.

The actor called for M-Net to pay compensation amounting to 24 months of work or alternative damages of R600 000 for the remainder of the “fixed contract of employment”.

M-Net argued in court papers that the Labour Court did not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute because Kgoroge had not entered into a contract of employment with the channel.

“Respondent (M-Net) denies that it employed another person to perform the duties of Kgoroge,” said M-Net. “As he did not accept the proposal set out in the letter of intent, M-Net cast another actor in the role that had been offered to Kgoroge.”

Labour Court judge Annelie Basson dismissed Kgoroge’s case, ordering him to pay all the legal costs M-Net had incurred, including the costs of senior counsel.

“The applicant (Kgoroge) was not an employee. The matter is therefore dismissed,” said Basson.

Last year, Kgoroge and the Creative Workers Union accused M-Net of using “unfair and discriminatory contracts” for its actors.

“Artists are suffering,” said Kgoroge. “Our employers don’t provide medical aid or pensions. The profit sharing will be used for that.”

The union and Kgoroge protested outside the launch of The Wild last year at Montecasino in Fourways, saying that taking away actors’ royalties was like taking “bread out of their mouths”.

This incident was not the first time Kgoroge had walked away from a show because he did not agree with its royalty terms.

He had been cast for the lead role in Jacob’s Cross, also on M-Net, but left the show for the same reasons.

Kgoroge has featured in internationally acclaimed films including, Hotel Rwanda, Hijack Stories, Blood Diamond, Skin and Invictus among others.

The only response from M-Net spokeswoman Lani Lombard yesterday was: “M-Net would like to reserve comment about the matter until we receive the written judgment”.


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