IT HAS been a battle raging on since October last year.
To date, despite the legal intervention by Desmond Brown on behalf of the Generations Actors Guild as well as Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture, the deadlock situation remains with MMSV Productions and the SABC.
On Tuesday, the actors addressed “untruths” concerning their list of demands, salaries and rates as well as royalties. They deemed the revelations concerning the R55 000 salaries an “unethical” act.
Veteran actor Patrick Shai (Patrick Thlaole) took to the podium first, followed by Sophie Ndaba (Queen Moroka), a highly emotional Zikhona Sodlaka (Priska Nomvete) and Nambitha Mpumlwana (Mawande Memela). A visibly weak Menzi Ngubane (Sibusiso Dlomo) left the room teary-eyed as he gave an emotional account of his kidney failure, having to return to work shortly after his hospitalisation even though he wasn’t well and the escalating costs of his ongoing dialysis treatment.
This unprecedented act by the Generations actors has left the industry and public divided in their opinion of the embattled lead soap.
A veteran in the industry, Shai first paid homage to all the artists “exploited” in this industry.
He said: “I would like to thank the members of the press for being here today to hear the other side of the story. There is always two sides to the coin.
“You probably wondered why and when this whole circus started, we were quiet. Our supporters out there must have wondered: ‘why are these people so silent? Could there be truth in all of these allegations?’ It was our strategy. We believed, let’s let the SABC and Mfundi Vundla speak.
“That was perched on the understanding that lies have short legs and yet they run very fast, but they don’t cover ground. So much was said about this magnificent 16, which is not true. I want to say to the house here and to the rest of South Africa – this is not a struggle for the actors of Generations to lead a luxurious life. That’s not the reason why we started this whole journey that we are on now.”
He linked apartheid policies to the SABC’s refusal for transformation despite our country celebrating 20 years of freedom.
“Whether we get our jobs back or not, this country will never be the same,” he added.
Battling a cold, Ndaba, who has been with the soap for 21 years, paid homage to Vundla for making her the star that she is today, especially with Queen’s “Hello dahlings” trademark catchphrase.
But pointed out that “right is right and wrong is wrong”.
She continued: “We don’t stand here because we want to be seen. We are seen on television screens every night. It’s not about wanting attention or any other measure to get you to hear us. For us, it is about doing the right thing.
“As someone who has been on an amazing show like Generations for the past 21 years, I started there when I was 20. I grew up on Generations. I love Generations. Generations made me the star that I am today. There is no way I would have been the brand that I am today without Generations.
“For me to stand here, confidently, talking to you, that’s how much Generations means to me. I see people come and go all the time. When we decided as actors to come together, it was a day of salary negotiations. We sat in the lounge, and saw everybody was sad. People were crying. And it was automatic: ‘Why are you upset?’ Some of us are used to it, we get whatever percentage, it’s okay. I know I make my money outside.
“For other people, they don’t run businesses. They wake up every day thinking, ‘all I have is Generations’. This is about changing the face of the industry.”
Ndaba revealed that SABC chief executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s declaration of a three-year contract to Generations got them all excited. But even though they still think he is “fabulous as he has changed a lot of things”, there were no addendums to their contracts to reflect the change.
It was also revealed that the soap made an annual turnover of R500 million.
While Sodlaka spoke out about how “betrayed” they are feeling, especially when their salaries were made public, she found herself fighting back the tears when talking about Ngubane’s circumstances and having no medical aid.
Mpulwana took up the baton thereafter to add clarity on why R55 000 doesn’t amount to much when you take into account that 25 percent goes to SARS, 15 to 20 percent goes to their agents, and whatever is left over is divided between health insurance, putting food on the table and raising a family.
Emotions are undeniably running high and, if all parties concerned started talking to each other, rather than doing so individually through the media, perhaps this unfortunate state of affairs will be resolved – and soon!