Cape Town - Uzalo co-producer and co-owner Kobedi "Pepsi" Pokane says the R14 000 per minute price tag to make the SABC's expensive hit Uzalo is "industry standard".
The Sunday Times on Sunday reported that the SABC confirmed that chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng single-handedly overturned a panel decision not to renew the expensive soap shot in Durban that is co-produced and co-owned by president Jacob Zuma's daughter, Gugu Zuma-Ncube.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng defied an earlier decision by a 6-person SABC panel in April 2015, including executives Clara Nzima, Maretha Bakkes, Vanessa Jansen and Reneilwe Sema who decided that the SABC will not to continue with the extremely expensive three episodes a week soap produced in Durban by Stained Glass Pictures.
Uzalo, funded to the tune of millions of rands by the SABC as well as the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government where there's been vocal objections about it in its legislature the past year, is currently the most watched soap and TV show out of all programming on the SABC, and also the most watched TV programme in all of South Africa television.
On Monday morning on radio 702, Pepsi Pokane told presenter Redi Tlhabi that "pressure from the sales division of the SABC came into play and questions were asked. Why was this review panel held in the absence of certain key members of management that should have been on the review panel?"
"How is it that a show that is reviving the fortunes of SABC1 in terms of revenue alongside Generations and Skeem Saam is being cancelled?”
"These are all questions that were apparently asked internally and then the question came up: What is the motivation for cancelling the show if it ticks all the boxes? That is where the reversal came into play," said Pokane.
Pepsi Pokane said Uzalo's production budget of R14 000 is normal. "I challenge any producer out there to come and tell me that R14 000 is too much. We are getting R14 000 a minute. That is industry standard."
“I’m used in political fights that have nothing to do with me”
Gugu Zuma-Ncube also put the issue on blast, responding on social media with tweets saying "Uzalo was recommissioned because we broke all viewership records in our timeslot. We were and continue to be the number 1 show in South Africa".
She said "it is more expensive to produce television in Durban than it is to produce television in Johannesburg".
Gugu Zuma-Ncube said Uzalo is the TV show that brings in the most advertising revenue for the SABC and that in four years Uzalo will produce 628 episodes. "I can't help who my parents are. But what I have always done is to put my head down and and I work harder than everyone around me".
She said that "literally being the best at what I do doesn't matter. I'm still being used in political fights that have nothing to do with me".
She her full response on Twitter here: