Pretoria - Despite the recent backlash against the South African State Theatre following the sacking of its deputy artistic director, Mamela Nyamza, the annual Mzansi Fela festival opened with hype on Sunday.
Singer and songwriter Zonke Dikana performed in a sold-out 1300-seater theatre, while other productions like Kwanele drew large audiences at the Arena Theatre.
“In essence, Nyamza's dismissal did not have any impact on the opening of the Mzansi Fela Festival,” chief executive Sibongiseni Mkhize said yesterday.
The acclaimed dancer and choreographer’s dismissal left the industry shocked last week and was followed by backlash from the public and artists.
Nyamza had been appointed in November last year. Her key role was to provide support to the artistic director creatively and administratively, work closely with the Education Youth Children Theatre department which focuses on the development of young artists in the industry, initiate development programmes to support the main programme, and ensure integration of the overall artistic programme.
Nyamza confirmed her dismissal in a short statement on Facebook last week. However, the dancer could not state the reasons behind her sacking.
“I am forced to issue a very short statement because I have just seen that my dismissal from the State Theatre is on social media already.
“I want to confirm that I have been summarily dismissed by the State Theatre from my post of deputy artistic director as from November 25.
"The matter is now sub judice.”
Nyamza made it clear that she would not be doing any interviews regarding the matter.
Seasoned choreographer Gregory Maqoma said Nyamza’s dismissal was sending a strong signal that the long battle to have a dance curator in a state-funded institution was not yet a settled matter.
The CEO last week said the dancer’s dismissal was nothing personal.
He said Nyamza’s decision to undermine the disciplinary process deprived herself of the opportunity to present her side of the story.
“We always ensured that the termination of an employment relationship with staff members is treated with utmost care, dignity, respect and confidentiality. For that reason the State Theatre has not been responding to social media remarks and allegations made by Ms Nyamza and her associates.
“The institution wants to place on record that Ms Nyamza’s dismissal had nothing to do with the accusations she and her associates have been making,” he said.
“Nyamza was subjected to a disciplinary process in accordance with the theatre’s disciplinary code and the labour laws of South Africa.
“It is important that details of the disciplinary hearing on November 14 are provided because in one of the social media posts Ms Nyamza alleged that she was summarily dismissed. It is a distortion of the truth.
"Ms Nyamza was aware of the date, time and venue of the disciplinary hearing but elected not to attend, only sending legal representation,” he added.
Mkhize said the institution opposed the presence of her lawyer because it was not in line with its disciplinary and grievance policy; making exceptions would create an unsustainable precedent. With legal representation having been refused, the chairperson could not postpone the hearing because Nyamza had been in contempt of the disciplinary process."