SABC drama shoot off, money vanishes

Ferry Jele says she and other actors suffered ill-treatment in KZN.
Ferry Jele says she and other actors suffered ill-treatment in KZN.
Image: Supplied

It has all come crashing down for the doomed SABC drama Uselwa. The cast has been sent back home without a cent for their efforts.

Following reports of money missing at the SABC production that was being shot in KwaZulu-Natal, the cast arrived back in Johannesburg early on Sunday after shooting was discontinued.

Sources claim that the actors were evicted from hotels and were left stranded without transport after hired cars were taken back.

Executive producer Megan Firth and producer Mkhomazi Mashinini have been accused of embezzling the production funds and leaving the account with only R13.50.

The production features actors such as Ferry Jele and
Jo-Ann Reyneke.

A livid Jele told Sowetan how unfairly actors were treated at Shakaland in Eshowe, where they were based.

The seasoned actress said actors were told to pack their bags and go home without payments.

"Just on Tuesday, Anne Davis [SABC head of genre: drama] asked for time while she and the new production house deliberated, and they would revert back to us on Friday. They returned only to tell people to 'just throw in the towel, pack your bags and go home. No money to pay you'.

"We are talking about men and women who have families - kids to support and homes to run. Who is going to take heed of our plight as artists when our very own national broadcaster does this to us?"

Sowetan has seen a letter sent by an SABC producer to the commissioning editor explaining that the public broadcaster was aware of the mismanagement and disruption on the production of Uselwa.

"We are identifying an experienced producer to take over the project as soon as possible, to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

"We undertake to honour the commitments to the cast and crew, but we beg for your patience as we institute a plan to complete the shoot," the letter reads.

Independent Black Filmmakers Collective (IBLC) spokesman Lebone Maema said the Uselwa incident was part of the symptoms of a broader problem.

"These problems that actors were subjected to cannot be viewed in isolation. It is a systematic problem caused by lack of transformation.

"It looks like there are irregularities in the commissioning process and that the industry does not have a code of conduct. As IBLC, we want to engage different role players on the issues of transformation and regulating the industry."

Mashinini distanced himself from the embezzlement allegation, saying: "I was not dealing with money. I had a line manager who handled finances. I am still trying to find out how this happened."

Firth was sent a list of questions through SMS but she never responded.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the public broadcaster was working on resolving the matter with affected parties. "We sent a team to KZN to investigate and now we are looking into the report and from then there will be a way forward because we are an affected party."

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