Generations CCMA appeal falls flat

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 14, 2014.

The 16 Generations actors who have now been without work for two months, took their matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) today.

FILE PICTURE: Fired Generations actors Zolisa Xaluva, Menzi Ngubane and Mandla Gaduka look on during a press briefing at Cosatu House in Braamfontein, 15 September 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise
FILE PICTURE: Fired Generations actors Zolisa Xaluva, Menzi Ngubane and Mandla Gaduka look on during a press briefing at Cosatu House in Braamfontein, 15 September 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

They sought recourse from their employers, the SABC and MMSV Productions, for their collective dismissal. The 16 took the matter to the CCMA as the Generations Actors Guild (GAG) after prior efforts to negotiate with their employers failed.

This pattern of refusal continued today as the SABC and MMSV Productions refused to settle the matter. In a statement GAG said: “The matter will continue on to arbitration. For the cast, there is a sense of relief that the process has begun.”

The actors’ legal advisor Bulelani Mzamo said it was important to remember that this process may be a long one. “There is a considerable amount of work that needs to go into demonstrating the basis of this claim to the CCMA – the CCMA, in turn, has its own process of how it responds to each claim, and their recommendation on the most suitable remedy to the dispute,” Mzamo said.

Why Generations actors were axed – Mfundi Vundla (audio)

In a joint statement the actors said: “From the outset, we acted within the definitions of the agreement and the law – despite a string of broken promises from our former employers. We look forward to putting our case before the CCMA and commencing on achieving a much-deserved legal remedy to our unilateral dismissal.”

Apart from the CCMA appeal, GAG now want to open a civil case against their employers “for a transparent calculation for the commercial exploitation fees owed to us for use of the episodes and our images”.

The soapie which is now off air, is being rewritten – presumably with a new cast – and will return to screens in December.

GALLERY: Actors who got axed from Generation

Generations’ replacement Skeem Saam viewership skyrockets

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on October 7, 2014. 

A change in TV scheduling at SABC1 has seen Sepedi drama Skeem Saam more than double its viewership numbers overnight.

As the last episode of Generations aired last week, Skeem Saam was catapulted into prime time.

According to data from the SA Audience Research Foundation, a week prior to the drama moving from its 6.30pm time slot to 8pm, their viewership stood at 3.5 million per show on average.

On the night the soapie occupied the 8pm slot for the first time on October 1, viewership shot to 8 881 352.

By Friday last week, the third day in that slot, the number went down slightly to just over 7.6 million viewers.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told The Citizen: “Viewership doesn’t sell ads; the time slot a show is in does.”

This was his answer amid fears that replacing Generations would have a negative impact on the massive ad revenue the show has managed to pull over the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, shooting for the new-look Generations – which will be ready to air in December – will start on October 28.

A source involved with the revamped production said: “We are all back at work and busy putting the new show together.”

The striking 16 actors – all dismissed in August – are still going ahead with their legal action.

“We have referred the matter to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and it will be dealt with on October 14,” said Desmond Brown, their legal representative.

Commenting on reports of a separate claim by the actors for never being registered for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, Brown said: “The first issue we need to deal with is whether they were employees or independent contractors.”

He claimed the actors had not been registered for UIF, despite all South African employers being obliged to register their employees.

“When we contacted them on this issue they said the actors were not employees of the SABC or MMSV, which is why they weren’t registered for UIF,” Brown said.

Generations off air from October 1

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on September 20, 2014. 

The contingency plan the SABC had in place to deal with the lack of new Generations episodes will come into full effect on October 1 – when the show is pulled off the air.

Kaizer Kganyago, SABC spokesperson, confirmed last night the show would no longer be on air as of next month.

The cast of Generations. Image courtesy of
The cast of Generations. Image courtesy of

“There are no new episodes … Generations will be off air until December,” he revealed.

Filming of the popular soap stopped on August 11 when 16 principal actors started withholding their services. The 16 demanded higher salaries and a cut of R500 million in royalties.

Kganyago said SABC1 would juggle their scheduling to move SePedi drama Skeem Saam from its 6.30pm timeslot to the coveted 8pm slotGenerations used to occupy.

Earlier this week, Generations producer and creator Mfundi Vundla said he was rewriting the entire show, presumably without the 16 actors, who were axed after being given an ultimatum to return to work or be fired a week after their strike action started.

The actors seem oblivious to the changes being made. The Generations Actors Guild announced yesterday they would be taking their matter to the CCMA.

Generations fight has producer in a lather

NOTE: This article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on September 18, 2014. 

The creator and producer of hit soap Generations, Mfundi Vundla, is standing his ground and is rewriting the entire show after he fired 16 principal actors who were on strike.

Following their dismissals by Vundla’s company, MMSV Productions, almost a month ago, he reportedly left the country to rethink the direction of the show now that his entire cast was gone.

Earlier, he said he took the strike very personally and felt “betrayed” by their accusations of exploitation.

FILE PICTURE: Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla addresses the media at the SABC offices in Auckland Park, 22 August 2014, following the termination of services of 16 actors from the popular soapie. Picture: Refilwe Modise
FILE PICTURE: Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla addresses the media at the SABC offices in Auckland Park, 22 August 2014, following the termination of services of 16 actors from the popular soapie. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Yesterday, when The Citizen contacted Vundla, who is back in the country, he said he was in a brainstorming session.

“I am busy rewriting the whole of Generations, I can’t talk to the media at the moment,” he said.

Viewers and fans of the soapie have been tuning in to watch prerecorded episodes for almost six weeks.

No filming has taken place since August 11, when the actors started “withholding their services” – meaning there may only be seven prerecorded episodes ready to air from today.

This is probably the reason Vundla is in a frenzied rush to pen the new direction of the show.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago could not confirm how many episodes were left, but said: “They haven’t been shooting, so at some point the episodes will be finished.”

He added that the SABC did have a backup plan for when that time came and this would be announced in due course.

In the event that the 16 actors were not reinstated, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) would march and picket in solidarity, the federation said. Patrick Craven, Cosatu national spokesperson, said they had requested a boycott of the show from Monday and would continue to put pressure on the SABC, producers, government and the public.

There has been no word on when auditions will be held to replace the fired actors or allocate new roles  for the “new” Generations. Cosatu general secretary

Zwelinzima Vavi threatened that any actors who auditioned would be publicly named and shamed.

Generations dispute far from over

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on September 3, 2014.

There is no end in sight to the ongoing Generations drama as the popular soapie enters the fourth week of no filming.

MMSV Productions owner and Generations producer, Mfundi Vundla threw a spanner in the negotiation process with the 16 fired actors when he reportedly jetted off to Mackinac Island in Michigan, the United States of America over the weekend.

Vundla reportedly said he was going away to think of the new direction the show would take, adamant that he would not be taking back the 16 who “betrayed” him.

Seemingly following in Vundla’s footsteps, actor Thato Molamu, who plays Nicholas Nomvete has also taken steps to change his situation. He has landed a hosting job on SABC 2 show, What’s Behind The Wall? 

Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney
Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney

He was reportedly on leave like a pregnant Katlego Danke when he got fired.

The last move made in this standoff between the actors, their production company and the SABC came last week Thursday. The actors sent a letter to the SABC requesting a time and date to meet again to possibly start negotiations.

The actors legal representative, Desmond Brown said some of the other fired actors had also started looking for “other gigs” while waiting to solve their dispute.

Winnie Modise, Sophie Ndaba and Nambita Mpumlwana did just that when they attended the Women in Sport awards evening hosted by the department of sports and recreation last week.

Ministerial spokesperson, Anda Qhama Bici said the three “were invited as guests, they weren’t making an appearance”.

Last week the fired actors received partial salaries because they have not been at work since August 11. They are demanding a cut of the show’s royalties and three year contracts.

At the moment pre-recorded episodes of Generations are still being aired, but there are only two to possibly four weeks’ worth of episodes left that are ready to air.

2Cents: The #Generation16 and cultural activism

The past two weeks have been the stage on which a wage dispute has turned into a full on cause to change the entertainment industry as it pertains to artists working in broadcast television.

Sixteen gatvol Generations actors decided to withhold their services (not strike they say) until their production company and the national broadcaster, SABC entered into wage negotiations with them.

They were given an ultimatum to return to work or get fired – the latter was chosen for them or by them depending on which “side” you’re on.

Since headlines have been abuzz with stories of inflated salaries, new talent, forlorn stars etc. This past Tuesday, for the first time in two weeks everyone got a big ol’ dose of perspective.

Initially when Mfundi Vundla spoke last week dropping the R55 000 bomb – I was like, well that is some good money, why are these guys kicking their toys about. But I immediately chided myself – the 21 year old soapie probably makes more money than any production of its kind in the country. Yesterday I learnt they make R500 million a year now.

That they cannot sit down to negotiate a way to cut the actors a piece of that pie seems unreasonable, to me at least. Apparently they have only received R3000 in royalty fees for the past 11 years.

Some of the dismissed cast members highlighted what was wrong, what they wanted and broke down in tears when doing so – illustrating to me that I actually have no idea how the “industry works”. Then Dr Johan Kani explained for us all.

“We carry the residue of the apartheid era master/servant relationship,” he said. Kani expanded on this saying that actors are not employed by their production companies, they are in a contractual relationship with them. Adding that actors should not be treated in the disposable manner that the dismissed 16 were treated.

He spoke at length about he had used his art to help bring down an oppressive system, yet here sat 16 people, 21 years later who were being treated in a way that resembled that past regime. He said that as an academic entity in society, artists should be valued and now was the time for them to stand up to say they are worthy of more.

He called on them to make the Generations set unworkable, much like the miners in Rustenburg had done to Lonmin for five months. Block the doors, barring clening staff, writers and the like from going to work until their demands are met.

His speech was the ultimate ah-uh moment. His son, Atandwa Kani then took to the podium. He was fired along with the 16 after only being a part of the team for three weeks, he had not even been on screen yet.

He admitted that he came on board wanting to “ascend his status as an actor”, acting alongside some of the country’s best.  However, “this was a battle I could not turn my back on,” he said.

“I come from a family where I was raised by a father who spent most of his life, and dedicated his life to the emancipation of this country – as a political activist through the arts. Now, I cannot having his blood running through my veins sit back and be silent.”

What they had to say, what everyone had to say on Tuesday afternoon made me realize the dire need for cultural activism of this kind in South Africa.It also made me realise that this is no longer just about the 16, but about something much bigger.

I really do hope their cause catches on and that they do stand as firm as they have promised to. Pay back the royalties maan. 

No work until demands met – Generations actors

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on August 27, 2014. 

Sixteen actors from the cast of Generations came out strong on Tuesday afternoon, insisting they will not go to work until “their demands are met”.

At a media briefing held at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the 16 dismissed actors banded together to finally give their side of the story.

Nambitha Mpumlwana who acts as Mawande Memela gave a brief financial run down of what a “supposed R55 000″ salary would look like after deductions.

She said after tax, agent fees and retirement annuity payments the actors would get a little over R19 000 – with which they would have to “pay rent or a bond, a car payment” and more.

Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney
Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney

A meeting with SABC, production company MMSV and the minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa yesterday did not prove fruitful.

Patrick Shai – who acts as Patrick Tlaole – announced they were told further talks would only happen if the actors agreed to do so without their legal representatives. 

A week of mass strike action has seen 16 principal actors from Generations supported by the ANCYL and department of Arts and Culture.

Now Dr John Kani has asked the nation to support their cause.

A number of the actors who stepped up to the podium to address the media broke down in tears when speaking of their working conditions. Menzi Ngubane who acts as Sibusiso Dlomo came out as the person Mfundi Vundla had paid hospital fees for. 

Ngubane was hospitalised for kidney failure. He said he spent seven weeks at Helen Joseph public hospital and Vundla would not have him moved to a private hospital. After being discharged he paid R30 000 back to a friend for his medical fees.

“I was discharged on a Thursday and had to go back to work the following Monday. Sitting down on a chair between the six to 10 scenes we shot a day,” said an emotional Ngubane, who had others on stage in tears.

Pre-recorded episodes of the show are currently keeping the soapie on air but these recordings will only last for a few more weeks.

The direction of the show is unclear at the moment with Vundla alluding to “new talent” as a strategy that may be used to take the show forward should matters with the 16 not be resolved.

​To this Sophie Ndaba who acts as Queen Moraka said: “Artists looking to audition must first think about what we are trying to do here.” ​