The show must go on: “Rain Queen” series to air amid objection

People dressed in Bulobedu caltural attire in support of the legal against the broadcasting of the Queen Mudjadji drama series at the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

People dressed in Bulobedu caltural attire in support of the legal against the broadcasting of the Queen Mudjadji drama series at the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 9, 2024


The Mzansi Magic series, “Queen Modjadji”, is set to air on Sunday, despite an urgent application launched by the Balobedu Royal Council which disapproves of it because it was never consulted by the producers of the show.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Tuesday struck the matter from the roll, due to a lack of urgency. Acting Judge Jacques Minnaar asked the parties to first address him on the issue of urgency, before he decided whether to hear the merits of the application.

Without hearing arguments on the facts of the case, the judge ruled that the matter lacked urgency. The judge said he could not comprehend how the legacy, dignity and constitutional rights of the applicants would be infringed as the series was based on fiction.

At the start of Tuesday’s court proceedings, Counsel for MultiChoice asked that the matter be struck from the roll due to a lack of urgency.

Advocate Terry Motau SC argued that the urgency was self-created as the applicants had known from at least March 1 that the series existed and was due to be aired.

He said there was news about the series on social media and it was no secret that it was going to be aired this Sunday. He said the applicants, however, since March 1, had not approach the court. It was only now, a few days before it was due to be aired, that they had launched an urgent application to interdict its screening.

Advocate Louis Kok SC, for the applicants, argued that they had tried not to take the matter to court. He said they were in constant correspondence with the producers and other role players, in a bid not to have the series aired.

He said that it was a matter of great cultural and public importance and if aired, it would be extremely harmful to the applicants.

Queen Modjadji said in an affidavit before court that the Modjadji queenship was a historically significant part of South Africa’s history. She said her queenship was protected by, among others, the constitutional provisions which guaranteed freedom of religion and those relating to traditional affairs.

She said she and the other applicants had reason to believe that the respondents were motivated by self-interest in the “unauthorised production and intended unlawful broadcasting” of the documentary on the queenship.

She said the airing of the series posed a threat to the standing of the queenship locally and internationally. “Such harm cannot be legally justified and is likely to be irreversible.”

Modjadji accused the respondents of having sinister motives. They had refused to furnish her or the other applicants with a copy of the series so that they could establish the extent of the “harm” the queenship would probably suffer.

She said that even from the scant information available to her and the other applicants, the series would probably cause them harm because of the “misrepresentations” of the Modjadji queenship.

Modjadji said the producers and other stakeholders had never obtained either her permission or that of the other applicants to produce and broadcast the documentary series. As the series focused on Queen Modjadji, it infringed on her rights.

She said there was no appropriate alternative remedy open to her and the applicants if the court did not interdict the series from being screened

The royal council said neither MultiChoice nor the producers, Duma ka Ndlovu, had approached them before making the series which was inspired by the world-famous Balobedu rainmaker, the first Queen Modjadji whose bloodline had ruled South Africa’s Balobedu Clan for centuries.

MultiChoice and renowned poet and producer Ka Ndlovu said the series was an opportunity for viewers to engage with the Lobedu culture and traditions. The drama series would showcase how Queen Modjadji was able to make rain.

MultiChoice, in its court papers, said the series was incapable of causing harm to the applicants or a right the applicants had because it did not concern them. The series was a work of fiction set many years ago.

It said that even if a fictional drama series based more than 200 years ago could be said to engage the rights of the applicants, the applicants had not set out evidence that the series would cause cognisable harm.

The high watermark of their case was, at best, speculative and, even then, it was hard to reconcile in the context of the series.

The respondents said that requiring a broadcaster to justify its constitutionally protected speech in advance was a significant intrusion into the protection of free speech.

Pretoria News

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