A commercial soap opera called Uzalo will get a R5-million-plus subsidy from the Durban metro – a step the city’s council has agreed to because it will bring focus to Durban’s capabilities for film-making in productive competition with Cape Town and Johannesburg. The soapie is to be broadcast on SABC1 and the argument was whether Durban was correct in assigning so much funding to an initiative which, while it would create some jobs and in general convey lessons in film-making to a city hitherto innocent of such ventures, it is coincidentally linked to the business interests of Gugu Zuma-Ncube, who happens to be Jacob Zuma’s daughter. – Peter Wilhelm
By Amanda Khoza from News24
President Jacob Zuma’s daughter’s Durban-based television series, Uzalo, took centre stage at an executive council meeting in Durban on Tuesday. The city recently approved a R5m cash injection to help keep Gugu Zuma-Ncube’s popular KwaMashu drama afloat.
Zuma-Ncube reportedly presented her request to the city’s economic development and planning committee earlier this month after producers begged for financial assistance. Zuma-Ncube and Kopedi Pokane are the registered directors of Stained Glass Facilities, the company producing the show.
The SABC1 series is shot in a leased Newlands East warehouse and locations in KwaMashu. It tells the story of two prominent families in the township who had their eldest sons switched at birth in 1990.
A report presented before committee on Tuesday revealed that Stained Glass requested a total sponsorship of R8m. The company requested that an amount of R5m be approved for the company to compete in the film industry within the city, to create job opportunities for the youth in particular, and showcase township culture in Durban.
DA Councillor Zwakele Mncwango said while he was happy that the series was being produced locally, he was concerned that Zuma-Ncube was given the funding because she was Zuma’s daughter. “My main concern is when we set aside R5m just to fund one project. What are we going to do when somebody else asks us for funding? The owners of Uzalo had a choice to sell their product to any other channel on DStv but they chose SABC1 and now they come to us to ask for R5m. This is a problem. We should be funding upcoming artists and productions at the Playhouse, not well established businesses.”
Uzalo has officially replaced Generations:The Legacy as the most watched show in South Africa http://t.co/xSsFKqsZt2
— DRUM Magazine (@DrumMagazine) June 23, 2015
Mncwango questioned: “Are we funding this project because they deserve it or is it because she is the daughter of the president? I would hate for us to fund this project just because she is Zuma’s daughter.”
Councillor Heinz de Boer supported Mncwango, saying that Stained Glass Facilities was making a profit using taxpayer’s money. “The aim of any business is to make a profit. How can we even consider making such a huge donation to one company? How can we take money from taxpayers and fund a struggling business?” De Boer added that there were no compelling reasons why the series should receive aid from the city.
ANC councillors attacked Mncwango and De Boer, calling them pessimists. Councillor Nigel Gumede said: “We always give money to universities in our metro, but the money is not going to the universities, it is going towards the students they are taking in. Funding Uzalo is the same thing – the money is going towards nurturing those young people. The report doesn’t mention any names but the DA always goes out there and searches for names to taint the ANC.”
Speaker Logie Naidoo said funding Uzalo would put Durban on the map in the entertainment industry: “Both Cape Town and Johannesburg have invested a lot of money in the film industry. This project will help us promote our culture and Durban as a brand. We have Isidingo and all these other series that are shot in Johannesburg and it would be good to have our own series shot in our backyard.”
He said while R5m sounded like a lot of money, the city would get plenty of mileage out of advertising. “For me it is not about the names involved. We need to support our industry so that we can attract new talent to our city,” said Naidoo.
City Manager Sbu Sithole agreed: “R5m is a pittance when compared to the mileage we are going to get from the production. We actually need to up the stakes in terms of the amount of money we contribute to the creative industry so that we can attract more people from Johannesburg.”
Mayor James Nxumalo also gave his support to the production: “It’s not a crime to support individuals. They are also South Africans.” And National Freedom Party councillor Bongiwe Mtshali supported the city’s decision, saying the project was unique. “We have never had something like this in Durban. There are children who were on the streets and now we are seeing them on our screens in this series. The NFP fully backs this initiative”