Mara Louw the Muvhango actress who has turned the role of Catherine into an icon of the soapie has revealed that she is leaving at the end of August because of a salary dispute.
Louw has likened the effect of the news of her departure from the soapie to that of her acrimonious divorce with her husband of many years, a few years ago.
In an interview yesterday, Louw said she was leaving the soapie in which she has been acting since its inception seven years ago because of a salary dispute with its producers.
"The producers at the end of last year surprised me when they told me out of the blue that they were going to cut my salary because the new Muvhango budget could not accommodate my salary.
"We negotiated the whole issue with the producers, including the involvement of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
"However, the results of these negotiations were just a six-month contract at my current salary.
"As far as the rumours that I am the highest- paid actress at the SABC, that I cannot confirm or deny because I do not know how much the other actors are getting.
"The impact of my leaving the soapie is the same as when my husband of seven years woke up one day and decided to end our marriage. It is hurting," she said.
But Louw said her contract with Muvhango was such that she was getting paid a lump sum whether she is called or not, ensuring her a consistent salary.
The other actors are paid according to the number of calls they get.
Louw maintained that she respects Muvhango creator, journalist-turned-playwright and TV producer Duma ka Ndlovu. The dispute surrounding the salary issue was not personal but based on business principles.
"I have known Duma for years at the time when he was a journalist covering my performances at the Pelican Night Club. I respect him, and one wishes that my relationship with the soapie should not have ended this way. I understand it is important for me to speak out about the reasons for leaving Muvhango. If this could happen to a person like me, it could then happen to the other actors one day.
"But now each day that I wake up to go and record the soapie as per the new six-month contract, there are times when I wish it was shorter so that I can leave.
"It feels longer for me. And it is not that I am greedy. It is just that you cannot cut someone's salary. It either remains the same or it increases.
"I know there was a time when I and the rest of the actors wished that Muvhango would serve the viewers better if it was extended to five days a week because its profile is now respectable, and all of us worked hard to take it to where it currently is now in terms of respectability and audience ratings," Louw said.
She, however, said she was not bitter, and was looking forward to a life after Muvhango. She is currently a judge on the Pop Idols singing competition, and will have a major role in the international musical Hairspray which will open the new Gold Reef Theatre.
"My major role in the Hairspray is the equivalent of the film version of Queen Latifah. I believe that every thing in life happens for a reason and I have accepted my fate," Louw said.
Attempts to get a comment from Duma ka Ndlovu failed.