Luthuli Dlamini's character was abruptly killed off

Is Luthuli Dlamini’s exit from SABC1’s Generations symptomatic of the troubles plaguing the soap – or was the actor once again responsible for his own fate? Debashine Thangevelo takes a closer look at South Africa’s leading soap in search of an answer…

IT’S déjà vu for fans of Luthuli Dlamini, who was reportedly dismissed from his role as Scott Nomvete in Generations for being a no-show on set.

Given his past, when’s Scandal was forced to let him go after he went AWOL for two weeks, there has been a sense of nothing untoward about creator Mfundi Vundla’s decision.

After all, terminated the Zimbabwean-born actor, after several fruitless attempts to get in touch with him, including a house visit, for being in breach of his contract. That reputation, despite all his other work to date, has unfortunately shadowed him.

But while it is one thing to be persecuted by repute, there have been too many controversies dogging Generations to simply dismiss Dlamini as the one to have wronged.

Let’s look at last year’s upsets with the soap. Nambitha Mpulwana was fired from her role as Mawande Memela for her “diva behaviour” on set. A veteran actress who has done stellar work, she was brought in as the new resident bitch. I guess she took her role to heart.

Then Melusi Yeni’s character was written out of the show. But Vundla did wish the actor well.

Several months ago, the soap came under fire when its lead actors went on strike following a wage dispute, among other grievances.

Menzi Ngubane (as Sibusiso Dlomo), Sophie Ndaba (Queen Moroka), Thami Mngqolo (Senzo), Xolisa Xaluva (Jason), Katlego Danke (Dineo Mashaba) and Anga Makubalo (MJ) were among those who took a stand against Vundla and the other decision-making heads on Generations, together with the backing of the Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA).

They were locked in negotiations to address: their liberation from exploitative work conditions, improved terms and conditions of their contractual obligations, long contractual terms to afford them equal access to financial and other credit benefits, equitable employment with long- serving actors accumulating some form of ownership, social bene-fits through retirement packages, and access to training and development programmes through subsidisation.

Vundla, at the time, intimated that no actor was bigger than the show. In other words, if you don’t like it, there is the door.

And that “no one is indispensible” theory was brought to life yet again with Dlamini’s axing.

However, trying to get a hold of a Generations head to comment on the incident and the domino effect it will have on the script was like convincing Julius Malema to be Jacob Zuma’s whipping boy once again. Frustrating and near impossible.

Let’s just say the PR is no more. And when I e-mailed head writer Bongi Ndwaba with several questions, she responded: “So much has been said in the media about Luthuli, and right now, as production, we have ‘no comment’ in everything.”

After the Scandal fiasco, Dlamini redeemed himself with roles in The Coconuts, Isidingo, Rockville, Intersexions and Room 9. Heck, the actor even managed to reprise his role as Stan Nyathi in Scandal.

Ilse van Hemert, series producer on Scandal, said: “It would be unethical of me as a producer to express an opinion regarding any actor’s behind-the-scenes work ethic.

“Actors need to be able to trust the working environment, so that they can be free to do their best work, without worrying how their strengths and flaws may later be discussed or judged in a public forum.

“We needed Luthuli’s character to return for a period, so that we could wrap up some unfinished business in our storyworld which involved him.

“To my knowledge there were no problems (on set).”

Ultimately, you have to wonder if Dlamini was justly fired or if his axing is linked to the current troubles at SABC1’s Generations.

Right now, everyone is keeping mum!

Please note, attempts were made to reach Dlamini for a comment. But he was not available. His character was killed on Generations, which airs on SABC1 at 8pm on weekdays, in a plane crash last week. It was done sans any dialogue from him.