Nathi Mthethwa fights to save Generations

2014-08-24 15:00

Generations fans could wake up on Tuesday morning to discover that the axing of their favourite stars was just a soapie-style bad dream.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called an urgent meeting tomorrow with the 16 fired actors, show creator MMSV Productions and unions representing the actors.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant have also been invited.

Sandile Memela, Mthethwa’s spokesperson, confirmed the meeting was set for tomorrow in Pretoria. He would not say what was on the agenda, but a source with knowledge of the meeting told City Press the actors’ reinstatement would be the first item up for discussion.

Mthethwa’s intervention – he’s just the latest senior politician to stick his oar in amid an uproar around the mass sacking – could falter because Generations’ executive producer Mfundi Vundla insists he’s not beholden to politicians.

“I am accountable to the client, which is the SABC. I am accountable to the audience to deliver quality content and that’s my job,” Vundla said during a press conference at the public broadcaster’s offices in Auckland Park on Friday.

When contacted yesterday, Vundla said he would not attend Mthethwa’s meeting because the minister had been advised by the National Film and Video Foundation that the department had no legal standing in the matter.

“It has also advised the minister that the department must not be seen to be taking sides,” Vundla said.

The 16 principal actors on Generations were sacked on Monday after going on strike in a long-running dispute over pay and contracts.

Among those fired were veteran actors including Menzi Ngubane, Sophie Ndaba and Patrick Shai.

The axed 16, who now call themselves the Generations Actors Guild, wrote an open letter to their fans on Tuesday explaining why they’d gone on strike.

They claimed they were being paid well below the industry standard, and had not received syndication fees or royalties. Also at issue is a fight around three-year contracts, which they have repeatedly demanded.

But MMSV Productions hit back on Friday, saying the actors who’d been dismissed earned an average of

R55?000 a month, making them among South Africa’s most well-paid screen stars.

Vundla claimed some had asked the company to fork out for personal bodyguards. Producer Friedrich Stark lashed out at those who had allegedly demanded dietitians and personal trainers.

The Independent Producers Organisation of SA also supported Vundla, saying soapie actors were remunerated fairly.

Zanele Modiba, the organisation’s managing director, said: “It was unfair for the Generations actors to hold producers at ransom because they are paid above the industry rate.”

Mthethwa, the ANC Youth League and alliance partner Cosatu are among those calling for a resolution to this unlikely national “crisis”.

Mthethwa said: “We are deeply concerned about these developments and hope that SABC management, the production company and worker representatives will work together to reach a speedy resolution to this matter.”

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