Umoja tour in jeopardy

Patience Bambalele

Patience Bambalele

The cast of Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness has downed tools in Canada and might land back in South Africa tomorrow.

This after producers and the cast allegedly had a disagreement over payment. Umoja left for Canada in January and were supposed to be on tour for four months.

Sowetan learnt yesterday that because of contractual disputes, the tour has been abruptly ended. General secretary of the Creative Workers Union (CWU), Oupa Leboga, said the union had received a call from cast member Glen Gabela, who informed them that the cast was stranded in a foreign land.

"Gabela said they were told they were not going to be paid until they returned to Mzanzi. They would be paid by the day in South African currency while on tour," Leboga said.

He said the CWU immediately contacted the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in Canada to handle the matter.

"The case was then referred to the Toronto Musicians Association. But Umoja management did not want to negotiate.

"That, unfortunately, has led to the cancellation of the tour," Leboga said.

Leboga said Thembi Nyandeni, one of the founders of the musical, had cut their weekly per diem (allowances).

CWU honorary president Boikie Mohlamme said they believed that Nyandeni had been used by the producers to exploit her cast.

"We feel that Umoja has changed from being a spirit of togetherness to a spirit of exploitation. We are disappointed that Thembi failed to solve the problem with her artists," said Mohlamme.

Todd Twala, a co-founder of the show with Nyandeni, did not want to deny or confirm that the tour had been cancelled. But, she admitted that they only pay their cast when they return from tours. Twala refuted claims that they pay the cast in South African currency.

"It is not true, we pay them in dollars," Twala said.