Generations: The Legacy actor Mutodi Neshehe is the latest casualty in what is fast becoming a ratings war between the country’s top soapies on SABC1.
Neshehe, who plays the role of Zola, the lover of Connie Ferguson’s character, Karabo, was one of the handful of actors brought in to save Generations: The Legacy after a massive strike by 16 stars forced an entire recast of the soapie.
Neshehe joined in May, but his contract has not been renewed and he will be disappearing from the country’s TV screens early next year.
Generations: The Legacy’s publicist, Gaaratwe Mokhethi, told City Press in an email on Friday that it was true that Neshehe was leaving the show.
“Neshehe was let go as a result of the direction the story is taking. You can still expect a lot from the much-loved character Zola. Closer to his departure, the reason he had to be let go will be revealed,” she said.
Two weeks ago, City Press reported that Ferguson’s continued presence on the show hung in the balance after insiders said she chose not to renew her contract.
Two independent insiders on Generations: The Legacy told City Press Neshehe was let go because the writers and producers were not happy with his acting performances.
One of the insiders, who works in the production department, said executive producer Mfundi Vundla had been working hard to restore Generations to its spot as the country’s top soapie, but was facing an uphill battle amid strong competition from new SABC1 drama Uzalo, which had become the channel’s most watched show with more than 8 million viewers.
“He’s always giving young talent and veteran actors an opportunity, but Neshehe failed to prove himself,” said the insider.
The whole idea behind introducing Neshehe’s character was to spice things up and bring a twist to the storyline. Neshehe plays a businessman who returns to South Africa after spending several years abroad. He had unfinished business with his college sweetheart, played by Ferguson, and the two began an affair.
The insider said: “The producers tried so many times to give him a chance, but his acting skills were not up to standard. Even after he was given a second chance, he still didn’t convince the producers to change their minds.”
Another insider, who is close to an actor on the show, added that when Neshehe was brought in, producers hoped he would help increase the viewership numbers, but this hadn’t happened and the soapie’s figures remain at about 7.2 million viewers. However, Mokhethi said the producers respected and appreciated Neshehe’s contribution.
“He’s a talented artist and it’s been a pleasure having him around,” she said.
Neshehe said: “I had a meeting with the producer. Performance was never an issue. Their claim is that they have too many actors. Could they be telling the truth? Who knows? Who is your source, by the way?”
City Press understands Neshehe is still finishing off shooting his scenes and viewers will see him for the last time in February.
This is not the first time Neshehe has been axed from a top SABC show. In 2008, his contract was not renewed with SABC2 Tshivenda drama Muvhango. At the time, Muvhango’s executive producer, Duma ka Ndlovu, said: “He never took his job seriously, he was not committed and his performance was not up to standard.
“We spoke to him and his agent to address the issue of his underperformance and commitment, and gave him an opportunity to correct these issues. Unfortunately, he didn’t and we were left with no option [but to let him go].”
Since the revamp of Generations, the show has lost a number of actors – including Denise Zimba, who played Mary Gumede, and Asanda Foji, who played Simphiwe.
In a statement in July, producers said Zimba asked to be released from her contract to pursue other interests