Actress Vatiswa Ndara has lifted the lid of the alleged abuse, exploitation and bullying that she and other performers featured on Mzansi Magic film Igazi had to endure at the hands of the Ferguson Films production.
On Monday, the multi-award winning actress made a heartfelt Twitter plea to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to intervene and stop independent film productions from using performers as “modern day slaves”.
The actress claims that Ferguson Films, owned by Shona and Connie Ferguson, allegedly declined her R1million once-off pay demand to shoot Igazi Season 3.
Instead, the company allegedly resorted to paying all lead actors R110000 for their services.
The Star understands that the shooting of the new season has now been shelved.
The Fergusons declined to comment but, through their lawyer Brendon de Kooker, they said that they would consider taking legal action against the actress.
“The allegations made in the letter regarding our client are wrongful and published with the intention of causing our client harm.
“Our instructions are to consider possible legal action against Ndara and as such our client elects to refrain from answering your questions,” De Kooker wrote.
Last week, Ndara, who plays NomaRussia in the film, poured her heart out in an exclusive interview with The Star.
She spoke about her strained relationship with Shona, saying his production company cut corners on actors’ safety, and being forced into poverty while her fame on the small screen was blossoming.
“When I came on Season 1 of Igazi in 2016, I accepted their (Ferguson Films) offer of R4000 per call. I was still based in the Eastern Cape and the Fergusons sought a place for me to stay.
“Everyone was happy and excited. The show received good ratings,” Ndara said.
The situation changed in 2017 when rumours about the company having cash flow problems started spreading. Ndara said because of her commitment to Igazi she gave the Fergusons two free call-ups.
For the Season 2, Ndara claimed she was offered R3000 per call. She rejected the offer and asked to be replaced. They eventually agreed on R5000.
Ndara said despite this, the company continued to tighten its budget which resulted in the actors taking cheap flights and accommodation when shooting on location.
“In 2017, we had to go and shoot in Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape. We were given R100 per diem each daily. We could not even buy snacks on the flight to East London. We later learnt that we would also share our hotel rooms. We were four people per room and it was uncomfortable. The crew had to drive from Joburg to the Eastern Cape,” Ndara said.
During filming, Ndara was bitten by an insect that made her foot swollen. “There was no first aid assistance. The show had to go on,” she said.
Another Igazi actor, Thembile Botman, said he saw the Fergusons’ true colours when he suffered serious injuries to the face after he accidentally crashed his stunt vehicle into a civilian’s car while shooting a scene.
“Connie visited me in hospital and told me that the company would not take responsibility because I, apparently, blacked out while I was driving. The company went as far as asking my relative if I had any drug or alcohol-related problems,” Botman said.
“I never heard from them again until someone from the company called me to return their shoes and pants (props). That accident could have been avoided had the company sought shooting permits from authorities and got paramedics and traffic officials on board.
“Even the car we were using was not roadworthy and it had to be removed quickly from the accident scene,” Botman said.
Ndara said that she was not afraid of coming out and possibly gain a bad reputation among producers. When she started on Generations in 2004 she earned R15000 for three months of work..
“I was so broke that I could not even afford to buy a car. Viewers were shocked to see me in taxis.
“I had to beg friends for lifts just to avoid the looks from people.
“It’s about time someone spoke out. People can label me a “diva” or “greedy”, it does not bother me.
“Why must I not get paid for doing interviews promoting films I’m acting in? Why in 2019 are we still talking about performers dying as paupers?
“We pay 25% tax and 12% agent fees and we are left with nothing but our images on TV,” bemoaned Ndara.