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
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.
The cast of young telenovela Uzalo is making an impression on South Africans and recently took top place on SABC’s TV ratings
Uzalo’s Duma ka Ndlovu (left) and Gugu ZumaNcube (right) have received a R5m municipal grant for the show