Creator / executive producer of South Africa’s top-rated TV series, Generations, Mfundi Vundla, has withdrawn the show from competition in the annual South African Film & Television Awards (SAFTAS), which take place in February in Pretoria.
Vundla is objecting to the fact that public broadcaster SABC, on which the show airs daily during the week, entered it into the SAFTAS without his consent.
“Not only did they not consult us but they put producer Friedrich Stark’s name as the applicant without him knowing anything about it,’ Vundla told Screen Africa. “Furthermore, the entry application was signed by an intern at the SABC which in itself is a violation of the SAFTA entry requirements, which state that the application must be signed by “a person of standing’ from the production company.
“I object to the fact that the SABC went behind our back, especially as I clearly indicated last year that I didn’t want Generations entered into any future SAFTAS. This was due to the fact that the SABC only submitted our entry after the SAFTA adjudication process and it was pushed through. Generations is the top rated show on television and it makes a lot of money for the SABC, so the producers should be treated with respect. This kind of treatment breeds resentment.’
Vundla voiced two other objections which influenced his decision to withdraw Generations. “Firstly, someone wholly unconnected with Generations has been nominated in a category – we have no idea who this person is. Secondly, we have about seven directors on Generations and only two were nominated, and a similar situation with our writers. To single out people who work as part of a team creates divisions within our company.’
SAFTAS Committee Chairman Eddie Mbalo sent out a statement on 27 November expressing disappointment at the withdrawal of Generations. “What is most shocking is the sentiment expressed by Mr Vundla about the integrity of the Awards when he has never raised the issues he highlighted with the Committee, which is made up of all representative organisations within the production industry.
“The primary objective of the SAFTAs is to honour, celebrate and promote the creativity, quality and excellence of the talent within the industry. It is very unfortunate that what seems to be a dispute between the SABC and Generations producers has culminated into this unfortunate situation that ultimately disadvantages the talent and crew who work very hard to make Generations what it is. I believe these actors and crew are being denied the opportunity to be acknowledged by their peers, an honour that is critical in the development of their skill and for their livelihood.’
Vundla also expressed dissatisfaction with the structure of the SAFTAS. “I think it is flawed as the whole cycle of eligibility is out of whack. I refused to enter our Canadian co-production Jozi-H into this year’s SAFTAS as it was entered into the Canadian national awards two years ago. So how can I enter it into the SAFTAS now after such a long time?’
In his statement, Mbalo said: “The SAFTAS Committee does not believe there is merit in questioning the integrity of the judging process when all 52 judges in different categories are active professionals in the industry and the judging process is overseen by two independent eminent persons, who command respect of the majority in the industry. The judging process is further overseen and audited by one of the world respected audit firms, Price Waterhouse Coopers.
“The SAFTAS Committee would be happy to engage with the producers and still hopes that this matter [Generations’ withdrawal] could be resolved in the interest of everyone involved.’
Earlier this week Vundla sent a letter to Vanessa Jansen, Head of Long Running Series at the SABC Content Hub, informing her of his decision to withdraw Generations from the SAFTAS.
Screen Africa was unable to contact Jansen for comment prior to going to press.