Mfundi Vundla hangs up on Zwelinzima Vavi

2014-09-07 15:00

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Mfundi Vundla insists nobody will be able to bully him into reinstating the Generations actors he fired. He has made this clear on numerous occasions to government, unions and actors.

But it seems union federation Cosatu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, didn’t get the memo. If he did, he wouldn’t have extended an invitation to a meeting with the creator and executive producer of the soapie on Thursday.

As expected, Vundla blatantly refused to meet him, saying he was on holiday on Mackinac Island on Lake Huron in northern Michigan in the US.

In a tersely worded exchange, Vundla reminded Vavi: “Cosatu has no legal standing regarding the dispute.”

But the determined Vavi replied in an SMS, which City Press has seen: “I know, but it does have a moral and political obligation to help resolve dispute involving any worker – our request for an audience with you stands.”

But Vundla would not hear any of it, insisting he was unavailable. And even a change of tone by Vavi didn’t help: “When are you available sir?” he wrote.

But Vundla shot back: “I will not meet with you. Kindly refrain from contacting me again.”

This infuriated Vavi, who suggested to City Press yesterday that battle lines have now been drawn between Cosatu and Vundla.

“We want to cut that man to his size. That is all I can tell you,” he fumed.

The 16 principal actors of the country’s most popular soapie were dismissed about three weeks after going on strike in a long-running dispute over pay and contracts.

Following what has been labelled a “national crisis”, at least two Cabinet ministers – Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana – have become involved in the fracas without any visible success.

Among those fired were veteran actors Menzi Ngubane, Sophie Ndaba and Patrick Shai, who have formed the Generations Actors’ Guild. Their reasons for going on the strike that got them fired, explained in an open letter to their fans, include being paid rates way below the industry standard, unpaid syndication fees and royalties, as well as promised three-year contracts that never materialised.

Cosatu met with the axed cast members at its offices in Braamfontein on Wednesday, and the next day, Vavi tried to set up the meeting. But when Vundla rejected his invitation, Vavi took to Twitter to vent.

“Mfundi Vundla flatly refused to meet Cosatu – he is on holiday at Michigan, USA. He also refused to meet minister of arts and culture.”

Vavi went on to say: “It’s propaganda that those artists earn R55?000 on average. That too will be peanuts compared with the billion they generate [for the SABC] a year.”

Later the same day, he tweeted: “We just had a productive engagement with SABC – established a process to try resolve Generations cast strike.”

Vundla confirmed to City Press that nobody from MMSV Productions, the company that produces Generations, attended the meeting.

Neither Vavi nor the actors wanted to share what was discussed at the SABC meeting.

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