Johannesburg - The web of intrigue around the SABC’s new R6 million traditional Zulu drama series, Uselwa, is becoming more tangled.
The public broadcaster is now trying to make sense of the meltdown that happened on the show’s set at Shakaland in Eshowe after Uselwa’s producers, NCA Productions, were publicly accused of stealing the production’s money by an SABC commissioning editor.
City Press believes that only R1.3 million remains of the budget, with several more days of shooting and post-production still to be completed.
A new production company, mooted to be Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube’s Stained Glass Productions, will most likely be brought in to finish the show.
After the shoot was halted two weeks ago, SABC staff, sent to investigate what had gone wrong, were detained on set by the angry cast and crew who demanded they be paid outstanding fees. This is just one of numerous claims of maladministration and abuse that the cast and crew made. Police were called and the cast and crew were then reportedly evicted from their rooms at Shakaland and transported home.
But this week saw another tense standoff, with the SABC’s acting head of television sending at least two crew members a letter of demand to hand over the Uselwa footage already shot – or face legal action.
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The cast and crew, several of whom spoke with City Press this week, refused, saying the footage stays with them until they have all been paid.
“We were supposed to be paid on Friday, but that never happened,” said one.
“Some of us have not received a cent’s pay since the beginning, especially people who were supposed to be paid weekly.”
Yet sources at the SABC’s finance division say while many crew paid weekly have been disadvantaged, not all of the cast’s claims can be believed. They do, however, agree that the production’s finances are in shambles and must be processed before the broadcaster knows for certain who is owed what.
Other letters were sent by the SABC this week to Uselwa’s producer Mkhomazi Mashinini and line producer Megan Firth. The two have been instructed to report to the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters on Tuesday to account for how almost R5 million has been spent on the show so far.
Firth has steadily denied claims against her, as has Mashinini, who told City Press he wants to see details of alleged financial wrongdoing before commenting.
(A still from the set of Zulu drama series Uselwa. Photo: Supplied)
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told City Press: “Following the intervention undertaken by the SABC on Uselwa and its numerous production challenges, we can confirm that the matter is currently under urgent internal mediation and investigation. We would like to assure all our industry partners, our viewers and the public that the SABC’s priority is to ensure that we always deliver excellent quality productions.
“We will further announce the outcome as soon as we have concluded the intercession process and have reached a positive solution. At this stage we are unable to comment any further.”
The cast and crew continue to campaign on social media, demanding that industry workers be respected and treated fairly by producers and broadcasters.