The tug-of-war between creator Mfundi Vundla and his soap actors has ended with 16 striking cast members being fired from SABC1’s Generations. Not only has this sent shock waves through the industry and left fans reeling from the news, it is an unprecedented act in the history of South African TV – perhaps even internationally. Debashine Thangevelo found out what some of our small screen giants feel about the ramifications of this unfortunate battle…
IN THIS fish bowl of an entertainment industry, creating controversial ripples is always discouraged by the fear of reprisals. In other words, having their bread and butter cut or, worse, being blacklisted.
And the latest chain of events with 16 prominent cast members of SABC1’s Generations given the pink slip for an “illegal strike” has been met with sadness by many in the industry.
Those given the chop are: Anga Makubalo (MJ Dlomo), Atandwa Kani (Samora Lembede), Katlego Danke (Dineo Dlomo), Mandla Gaduka (Selwyn “Choppa” Maithufi), Menzi Ngubane (Sbusiso Dlomo), Nambitha Mpumlwana (Mawande ), Patrick Shai (Patrick Tlaole ), Slindile Nodangala (Ruby Dikobe), Sophie Ndaba (Queen Ndaba), Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth Mashaba), Thami Mngqolo (Senzo ), Thato Molamu (Nicholas Nomvete ), Winnie Ntshaba (Khetiwe Buthelezi), Zenande Mfenyana (Noluntu Memela), Zikhona Sodlaka (Priska Nomvete) and Zolisa Xaluva (Jason Malinga).
With the cast, SABC and MMSV Productions coming to an agreement, in principle, to address the issues that were outlined after the initial strike in October, this has been a blow several months down the line. More so, with the pervading discontent resulting in the current status quo with South Africa’s highest rated soap creatively haemorrhaging. The demise of popular characters means an eradication of the fictional worlds created too.
How does a soap survive this?
While the fate of Generations hangs in limbo – along with its ranking on TV – there has been unbearable silence on the way forward.
Attempts to get hold of Vundla as well as SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago proved unsuccessful. Hopefully, concerns will be allayed at some point. In the meantime, it’s a waiting game as the fired actors look at what legal recourse would serve them best at this juncture.
In the meantime, Tonight asked prominent people from the TV industry to lend their insight into the situation. Some declined to comment, which is understandable, a few remained equitable and the rest were boldly vociferous.
DALEN LANCE (TV PRESENTER)
This trendy presenter, best known for e.tv’s Step Up or Step Out as well as kykNET’s Dagbreek, didn’t hold back on his feelings.
Lance said: “The manner in which these 16 career professionals have displayed their willingness to negotiate in good faith and as a collective has truly given the broadcasting industry the opportunity to reflect on the invaluable contribution of their craft.
“As tweeted recently, this should not be viewed as a crisis but a turning point for our local talent’s relationship with networks and producers, and I hope that those in a position to effect positive change will see it as such.”
He continues, “I’m deeply disappointed by the opposition stance taken by Saga (South African Guild of Actors) in light of this situation and applaud the Cwusa, Mwasa and SOS coalition for their candid support of the cast’s plight. This, in light of the bigger picture, which is to spearhead parity in talent rates and the secondary income derived from the syndication of content, as is (part of) global best practice.”
BOBBY HEANEY (DIRECTOR/PRODUCER)
The man with the Midas touch on the small screen. His work speaks volumes to anyone who has seen Erfsondes, The Wild or Rockville (a Shona Ferguson Films production).
Given his wealth of experience, his insight is nothing to scoff at.
He notes, “Look, it is unprecedented to lose so many (actors) at once. It is going to be hard for the producers. The fact that it is unprecedented means whatever happens will set the precedent for the future. It is critically important that it be handled well.”
CLINT BRINK (ACTOR/MUSICIAN)
Several years back, Brink played Bradley Paulse in Generations. Au fait with the genre as he has also been on Backstage and has a meaty role on Scandal, Brink says: “First, for actors to take this kind of stand is a bold thing. This is something that has been coming on for a long time, especially for SA as a whole. It is sad that Generations has become the platform. But there are a lot of actors that feel underappreciated, undervalued and exploited. With 16 gone at the same time – what are you going to have left?”
ROSIE MOTENE (ACTRESS, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER)
To this day, her role as journalist Tsego Motene is remembered rather fondly by fans.
And that intrepid spirit remains as strong as ever.
She says, “To get to this point is frightening. The fact that we don’t have any rights in this industry is beyond me. The fact that lead actors of a flagship show have been fired is worrying. When I was at Generations, we didn’t galvanise as much support. I take my hat off to them for standing their ground.”
She also stressed the urgency of having proper legislation in place.
Motene adds, “I think it is about time the industry had a shake-up and started respecting the talent for what they are!”
TUMISHO MASHA (ACTOR/PRODUCER)
Currently in Mzansi Magic’s Saints & Sinners, Masha says, “I think it is sad that that is the only solution the production company and SABC1 could come up with. The actors took a stand last year, they were promised things would change in their contract.
“Now they get fired for asserting themselves. And it is for basic rights enjoyed in the US and UK. This thing will never come to an end until the government puts it into legislation.”
Aside from revealing that he is also waiting for residuals from SABC, he adds, “I hope that viewers will stop watching Generations. There should be more solidarity. Actors who step into roles of those that left should take a hard look at themselves.”
ASHISH GANGAPERSAD (ACTOR)
Best known as Prada on Isidingo, Gangapersad is making waves as a contestant on SABC3’s Strictly Come Dancing.
He comments, “The biggest problem with actors in SA is that there is no real union. Saga is one of the biggest but you have no protection. All of those guys are phenomenal actors.
“The SA public loves all of those characters. It is really sad the SABC had to go through those measures with the actors going on an illegal strike. I don’t think any actor did any wrongdoing.
“I do think it is troubling that no agreement was reached. If they (the actors) don’t stand for what they believe in, who will?”
COLIN MOSS (ACTOR/COMEDIAN/HOST/PRODUCER)
Still missed as Stewart on Isidingo, the former Idols SA host threw his weight behind the actors.
Moss says: “I stand firmly with the Generations cast in this dispute. I don’t think that fair remuneration and job security are unfair re- quests and the fact that the SABC/ producers have chosen to fire the cast instead of coming to the negotiating table is outrageous.
“Regarding payment for residuals, this is an issue that is long overdue for review in South Africa. Internationally if a series is repeated or is sold to other territories (at a profit to the broadcaster/producer) the actors get compensated for the additional use of their likeness. It’s the fair thing to do.”
JAMIE BARTLETT (ACTOR)
One of South Africa’s most respected actors, Bartlett is no stranger to local and international productions. In fact, he has got his feet wet plenty of times on both sides of the fence, so he has a firm understanding on a global platform.
He says, “I am also a Generations fan. My instinct tells me that this is a ludicrous move on behalf of the producers, to checkmate them- selves, the public and the actors. We are talking about eliminating a brand. This isn’t a negotiable situation. It feels like a ploy and I hope there is an end that isn’t the one playing now. This is suicide. Nobody wins in this situation. This is a searing brand that has a huge footprint.
“Who is trying to kid who here? I do hope that somebody takes up the moral ground and picks up the conversation and comes to an understanding.”
He adds: “No actor is bigger than the brand. But a company of actors is the brand.”
• The Generations off-screen saga remained unchanged at the time of publication.