SOAP WARS: VUNDLA vs ZUMA

Af­ter a mas­sive drop in TV view­er­ship fig­ures, Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy mas­ter­mind Mfundi Vundla ac­cuses pro­duc­ers and writ­ers of Uzalo of ‘sab­o­tag­ing’ his 20-year-old soapie and ‘steal­ing’ its story lines

CityPress - - Front Page - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

A tele­vi­sion turf war has ap­par­ently bro­ken out be­tween Gen­er­a­tions’ Mfundi Vundla and his coun­ter­parts at Uzalo.

City Press has re­li­ably learnt that Vundla wrote a se­ries of emails in which he ac­cused Uzalo pro­duc­ers and writ­ers of “sab­o­tag­ing” his show and “steal­ing” its story lines.

A re­li­able source at the SABC told City Press that the emails, which Vundla al­legedly sent to a se­nior SABC of­fi­cial, had been widely cir­cu­lated in the cor­po­ra­tion’s Auck­land Park head­quar­ters and re­port­edly landed in the in­box of one of the Uzalo pro­duc­ers.

In­ci­den­tally, the isiZulu word ‘uzalo’ is a loose trans­la­tion for lin­eage or di­rect de­scen­dants. In other words, gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­ily.

This week, Uzalo pro­duc­ers – in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s daugh­ter Gugu Zuma-Ncube and Pepsi Pokane – re­ceived a R5 mil­lion grant from eThek­wini mu­nic­i­pal­ity to en­able them to con­tinue shoot­ing the pop­u­lar show in Dur­ban.

Vundla de­clined to com­ment on ques­tions about the al­leged emails on Uzalo.

Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy pub­lic­ity man­ager Gaaratwe Mokhethi said on Fri­day: “The two sto­ries have no sim­i­lar­i­ties. There­fore, Vundla could not reach the con­clu­sion that Uzalo is steal­ing the story line of Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy.”

Uzalo pub­li­cist Marang Setshwaelo re­ferred queries to Pokane, who said: “We have no idea what this is about. It is the first time that we hear of it [Vundla’s emails]. We are un­able to re­spond to an un­sub­stan­ti­ated ru­mour about a col­league.”

This week it was re­ported that the five-mon­thold Uzalo had booted Gen­er­a­tions off its pedestal as the most watched show on SABC 1 – for the first time in more than 20 years.

Vundla told City Press that he wasn’t shaken at all be­cause “Uzalo was on top just for a day”.

TV rat­ings doc­u­ments, which were leaked to City Press this week, con­firm Vundla’s com­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to the TV rat­ings data, Uzalo beat Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy in the rat­ings on June 10 2015.

Uzalo had 5 563 000 view­ers, while Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy’s fig­ures sat at 5 471 000. The lat­ter show, there­fore, lost 92 000 view­ers on the day. But Vundla is not both­ered. “Show me a pat­tern and we can talk. If Uzalo is at the top for two or three weeks, I would start to worry,” he said, adding that the “num­bers don’t lie”.

Re­spond­ing to the in­crease in TV rat­ings, Uzalo se­ries pro­ducer Mmamitse Thibedi said: “When we con­cep­tu­alised Uzalo, the vi­sion was both to make ex­cel­lent TV and de­liver a pro­gramme that South Africans could re­late to ... We’re thrilled to have met this man­date.”

A non­cha­lant Vundla said he had been in the TV in­dus­try for 22 years, “and I know my story”.

How­ever, when Gen­er­a­tions was at its peak in 2014, it had about 7.5 mil­lion view­ers – 2 mil­lion more than at present.

Vundla said he was not wor­ried about get­ting Gen­er­a­tions back to the top of the TV rat­ings.

“I have very strong story lines com­ing in the next few months. I’m not wor­ried at all,” he said. “I con­grat­u­late Uzalo. They’re do­ing well.”

Mokhethi said Gen­er­a­tions was “still num­ber one and get­ting stronger”.

“We have new and ex­cit­ing story lines – twists and turns that are still to take place,” she said, adding that there would be more high drama and in­ten­sity to­wards the sec­ond half of the year.

“In­stead of los­ing view­ers, we’ll gain more with our up­com­ing episodes,” she said.

Gen­er­a­tions took a dive af­ter 16 of its stars – in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar So­phie Ndaba, Di­neo Ranaka and Menzi Ngubane – were axed af­ter go­ing on strike for higher wages.

The new show, star­ring Con­nie Fer­gu­son and Ra­pu­lana Seiphemo, was then rushed into pro­duc­tion and was broad­cast just two months later.

Gen­er­a­tions head writer Collin Oliphant said the show was new and still find­ing its feet.

“It’s been on air for eight months and we are go­ing to serve our au­di­ence high drama, but with a mes­sage,” he said.

One pos­si­ble at­tempt at gain­ing more view­ers was on June 9 2015 when Gen­er­a­tions The Legacy broad­cast an episode which fea­tured two char­ac­ters – Smanga Moroka (played by Moopi Moth­ibeli) and love in­ter­est Thabi Cele (played by Mot­soaledi Setumo) – in­volved in a sado­masochis­tic sex scene inspired by erotic ro­mance novel-turned­movie 50 Shades of Grey.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The cast of young te­len­ov­ela Uzalo is mak­ing an im­pres­sion on South Africans and re­cently took top place on SABC’s TV rat­ings

PHOTO: JAB­U­LANI LANGA

Uzalo’s Duma ka Ndlovu (left) and Gugu Zu­maNcube (right) have re­ceived a R5m mu­nic­i­pal grant for the show

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