OUR (IM) PER­FECT wed­ding

Vo­da­com pulls out of re­al­ity wed­ding show af­ter groom’s dis­clo­sure of un­der­age sex re­sults in pub­lic up­roar and com­plaint to broad­cast­ing body

CityPress - - Front Page - NTOMBI­ZODWA MAKHOBA ntombi­zodwa@city­press.co.za – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Lucky Nx­u­malo

One of the coun­try’s most loved TV shows has landed in fur­ther trou­ble af­ter los­ing an­other spon­sor. Vo­da­com is the sec­ond ma­jor spon­sor to pull out of Mzansi Magic’s Our Per­fect Wed­ding – with its more than 1 mil­lion view­ers – af­ter last Sun­day’s episode, which many slammed for ro­man­ti­cis­ing and pro­mot­ing statu­tory rape.

The episode fea­tured Bavelile Mkhwanazi, who met her hus­band, Fanie, when she was 14 and he was 28.

On the show, he boasted that he used to “pick up” and “sleep with” many “girls” who were still in school, but that Bavelile won his heart.

On Fri­day, Vo­da­com’s ex­ec­u­tive head of cor­po­rate af­fairs, Tshepo Ramod­ibe, con­firmed to City Press that it had can­celled its spon­sor­ship.

“We have en­gaged M-Net and re­solved to can­cel our spon­sor­ship of the show,” he said.

Baset­sana Ku­malo, CEO of Con­nect TV, which pro­duces the show, re­fused to com­ment. But Mzansi Magic’s PR head, Non­du­miso Mabece, said the chan­nel was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with all its spon­sors.

“We value our re­la­tion­ship with our spon­sors and re­spect any de­ci­sion they make about how their brand is po­si­tioned,” she said.

Ramod­ibe said that un­til Mon­day, Vo­da­com was an as­so­ciate spon­sor of the show, which “has so far been a pos­i­tive cel­e­bra­tion of love and the jour­ney that the cou­ple takes lead­ing up to their wed­ding day”.

“Re­gret­tably, the re­cent episode and sen­ti­ments ex­pressed were di­rectly op­po­site to our cor­po­rate val­ues and what our brand stands for,” he said.

On Mon­day evening, af­ter a mas­sive pub­lic out­cry, Absa tweeted that it was with­draw­ing its spon­sor­ship of the show.

Although Ku­malo would not com­ment on the loss of Vo­da­com as a spon­sor, she said on Thurs­day that Absa had ev­ery right to make de­ci­sions on spon­sor­ship strat­egy.

She also ad­mit­ted that a “lapse” had led to the flight­ing of the pro­gramme, which con­tin­ues on the chan­nel tonight.

“The episode shown should never have been broad­cast,” she said.

“Un­for­tu­nately, in this case, some is­sues were not picked up dur­ing the process. It is not ac­cept­able and we are putting mea­sures in place to see this will never hap­pen again.”

She said it was of great con­cern that no one on the pro­duc­tion team and the chan­nel had re­alised this was such a “volatile sub­ject”.

“There is clearly a need to re­view train­ing and an un­der­stand­ing of what is ac­cept­able and what is not. The mat­ter of un­der­age re­la­tion­ships is very se­ri­ous and some­thing we do not con­done. It is im­per­a­tive that our staff know how to deal with is­sues of this mag­ni­tude ap­pro­pri­ately.”

She said cou­ples write to the show and are in­vited to the pro­duc­tion house to “au­di­tion” by telling the pro­duc­ers their back story, which is shot and pre­sented to the chan­nel.

This week, City Press vis­ited the Mkhwanazi home in Et­watwa on the East Rand.

The new­ly­weds were nowhere to be seen, and their house and gates were locked.

Neigh­bours who asked not to be named told City Press they had not seen the cou­ple since Mon­day.

“They re­gret why they agreed to be on the show. They are re­ally dev­as­tated, and Fanie is not tak­ing this very well,” said a neigh­bour.

Mkhwanazi is pop­u­lar in the town­ship. He is known for trans­port­ing school­child­ren in his minibus taxi, which he has named Sound Pro­ducer.

“Back in the day, he was the wom­an­iser. But since he met Bavelile, he has stopped his cheat­ing ways,” said an­other neigh­bour.

On Fri­day, Mkhwanazi broke his si­lence and apol­o­gised, say­ing he had never meant to hurt any­one (see side­bar).

On Mon­day, med­i­cal doc­tor and ac­tivist Tlaleng Mo­fo­keng lodged a com­plaint against the show at the Broad­cast­ing Com­plaints Com­mis­sion of SA.

The com­mis­sion’s reg­is­trar, Shouneez Martin, said it had re­ceived an apol­ogy from M-Net and would fi­nalise its re­port early next year.

But Mo­fo­keng was adamant that M-Net’s apol­ogy should not be the only restora­tion and that the broad­caster should also lay a crim­i­nal charge against its guest.

“M-Net needs to show it un­der­stands sec­tion 54 of the Sex­ual Of­fences Act. I am not go­ing to do their clean-up,” she said.

She said M-Net had the footage and should be held re­spon­si­ble for the show’s screen­ing.

Fanie and Bavelile Mkhwanazi re­cently got mar­ried on the pop­u­lar TV se­ries Our Per­fect Wed­ding.

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