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
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.