Soapie actors revolt
Days before the premiere of its keenly awaited local soapie The Wild, pay channel M-Net has been accused of harassment, intimidation and paying its actors "monkey wages".M-Net has denied the claims.
The Creative Workers Union yesterday held a press conference at Cosatu House, Johannesburg, to make six demands, including the re-instatement of axed actor Tony Kgoroge to the soapie.
The union is also planning a picket outside NuMetro cinemas at Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg, this Sunday, where M-Net will be launching the new drama series.
Kgoroge - who has acted in films including Hotel Rwanda, Invictus, Blood Diamond, Skin and SABC3 soapie Isidingo - was supported by other local actors including his wife, Sthandiwe, Hlomla Dandala, Thobi Mkhwanazi, comedian David Kau, Isidingo's Chris Beasley and his agent, Moonyeenn Lee.
One of the actors starring in The Wild, Tumisho Masha, was also at the briefing and said he did not believe he was compromising himself by supporting his former cast mate.
"I must say that all the cast is supporting us. They couldn't be here for whatever reason - most of them are at work today - so it's not a matter of one or two members of the cast. I believe that all the cast members are supporting us," he said.
The union's president, Kid Sithole, claimed many members of the cast were harassed by the show's producers to sign contracts they were not satisfied with. Many signed as they needed the work.
Kgoroge was replaced by Putla Sehlapelo, who has appeared on TV shows including Society, Intersexions and Muvhango. He is now playing the role of Tiro Lebone, an eligible bachelor who gets attention from all women, but can't settle down with one.
Kgoroge said certain terms in the letter of intent, a precursor to the contract which he was required to sign, "stated that they will have my copyright for a lifetime basically", to which he couldn't agree and was subsequently dismissed.
He said that even if M-Net were to give in and reinstate him, he wouldn't go back until that contentious clause was revisited.
"I had meetings with [cast mates] just to explain my position and make them aware of certain things that they were not aware of and they were very unhappy about that . but people have to put food on the table, so I can't expect them to drop everything. You rather have people working and fighting for the cause," Kgoroge said.
The union also demanded that M-Net:
End its "usage of agents who are ripping off the actors or casting crew";
Stop appointing a casting crew representative on dispute matters; and
Reinstate Kgoroge and find his replacement, Sehlapelo, an alternative job.
M-Net spokesman Lani Lombard said the series has created 120 jobs and "all the production staff and the cast are remunerated fairly according to industry standards".
"Tony Kgoroge was presented with a very lucrative contract to play one of the leading characters, Tiro Lebone, but he declined the offer. Following extensive negotiations with Kgoroge, M-Net had no option but to recast the character, which will now be portrayed by Putla Sehlapelo," she said.
The Wild premieres on M-Net on Monday at 6pm.