We don’t exploit Generations actors, says producer

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and MMSV Productions hit back at accusations levelled against them by Generations actors at a press conference on Friday.

Friedrich Stark, producer of the SABC1 soap opera, said that though he couldn’t reveal individual salaries, the actors earned an average of R55 000 a month. 

“One of the actors had a blood clot in his brain and ended up in a private clinic. He had no medical aid, and I paid for his medical expenses from my own pocket. But today I’m portrayed as an exploiter,” added the show’s executive producer Mfundi Vundla. 

Vundla also said continuing discussions with the actors will be about them coming back to Generations according to the terms and conditions of the production company.

On Thursday, Vundla told the Mail & Guardian that the subject of royalties, which was raised by the actors, had not been addressed by the SABC at first but the broadcaster was later forced to recognise the issue. 

“The SABC addressed that issue, even to the extent of saying to the actors ‘your lawyer can bring an auditor and examine our books to say whether the share you’re going to get from royalties is fair or not.’ They have not sent their auditor, despite numerous requests that they go and examine the books of the SABC,” said Vundla. 

He added: “The Generations actors are not the victims they portray themselves as. I have been surprised as to why members of the media do not interrogate the assertion by Generations actors that they are being underpaid. Because if I say to you I am being underpaid I must tell you how much I am being paid. For you to come to a conclusion of whether I am indeed being underpaid and that has not come forth.” 

On Monday, MMSV Productions, the producer of South Africa’s most popular soap opera,  terminated the contracts of 16 of the show’s cast members.   

“MMSV Productions, following consultation with the South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC], have today [Monday] terminated the contracts of the striking actors on the SABC1 soap drama, Generations. The termination follows calls by both parties for the actors to return for recordings, following the start of their illegal strike,” it said in a statement.

The actors are demanding bigger salaries and extended three-year contracts. They also want royalties from episodes that have been rebroadcast, as well as syndication fees resulting from the sale of Generations outside of South Africa.

Verona Duwarkah, group executive of the SABC’s television division, says that the public broadcaster has engaged with other SABC shows as well about the offer of three-year contracts. 

At the press conference Chief Operations Officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said he was the one that tabled the idea of offering artists royalties. 

“We need to make sure that whether these are actors or employees the environment should be conducive for all of us. As SABC we have committed ourselves on whether there are issues or disputes among the production houses we also get involved and help resolve the issues.”

Motsoeneng added: “We are not going to allow anyone to hold the SABC and the production house at [sic] ransom. We are not going to allow anarchy. You can’t say you’re not going to work because of a dispute.”

‘Out of touch with reality’
“My view is that the expectations of the actors are out of touch with the reality and the sustainability of the production,” said Vundla.

“Some of those actors who came later and joined the series, they are some of the most highly paid actors in South Africa. Patrick Shai for example. It will be exposed that Patrick is getting a good salary,” Vundla told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday. Shai plays the role of Patrick Tlaole. 

“Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth Mashaba), he is getting a good salary here at Generations. In their press statement they said ‘We live in a country that is notorious for artists living and dying in a state of poverty, tragically, never managing to earn what is their due, despite being associated with a number of successful projects’. True, that has happened, but that is not happening inside Generations. Sorry!” 

The 16 actors will hold a press conference on Monday August 25, where they will “speak to the issues and provide a proper and true context of their working conditions and issues that led them to this point.”

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