Actors matter more than mine workers

2014-08-24 15:00

Earlier this year, South Africa experienced its longest mining strike when miners downed tools for five months. Government ministers mostly stayed away from the dispute because it was a labour matter between employer and employee.

This week, there was no keeping them away when the public broadcaster fired 16 actors from its leading soapie, Generations. At least four government ministers got involved, the governing party’s youth league also popped its head above the parapet and Cosatu weighed in, too.

The unprecedented, high-level support for the actors is overwhelming.

For years, pleas by a TV industry brought to its knees by the SABC’s economic collapse were ignored – but now the ministers will institute an intervention because there are TV stars involved.

At the time of the collapse, the industry lobbied all of these departments to help come up with a strategy to sustain a growing and valuable industry. They were ignored.

The SABC is – according to unions within the building – experiencing a huge number of Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and labour disputes, notably more so since the arrival of chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Some unions accuse him of favouritism and unfair promotions – even the Public Protector has found evidence of irregular pay hikes and promotions. Why did these government departments not intervene then?

Is it because Generations is so massively popular and this story is so huge that they feel they can win political points?

Generations is an asset to the public broadcaster and we expect the ministers to voice their concerns. But the mining strike was huge and left a massive dent in our economy. True leaders lead; they don’t follow soapies.

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