The cast starring in the revival of the classic anti-apartheid stage musical Sarafina! have joined the growing chorus of South African actors who say the film, TV and theatre industry is exploiting them.
They have still not been paid what is owed to them by Committed Artists Theatricals after their 10-day Joburg run ended, they told City Press this week. It is believed that about R250 000 is still outstanding, but the show’s former producer, Norman Qobolo, promised this week that the cast would be paid.
“From the start of the Joburg run, things were dodgy,” said one of four cast members who spoke with City Press.
“We were paid only 70% of what was owed to us, and many were not paid their [subsistence and travel allowance],” said another.
“The 70% came from the ticket sales and we insisted that Joburg Theatre pay us directly because we really don’t know if we can trust the producers now that Qobolo has resigned from Committed Artists, or was dismissed or whatever.”
Another said: “We are being screwed. We thank Joburg Theatre for jumping in and helping us, otherwise we wouldn’t have received a cent.”
The show’s creator and director, Mbongeni Ngema, declined to comment, saying only: “Thank you for the questions, however, this is an internal matter that will be resolved internally.”
City Press contacted Qobolo after seeing a WhatsApp message sent to the cast by Ngema. Qobolo had been working with Ngema’s Committed Artists Theatricals to stage Sarafina!, but apparently is no longer part of the show.
“Dear Sarafina! cast 2018,” wrote Ngema, “It is with great sadness [that] I inform you that Mr Norman Qobolo has decided to resign and leave Committed Artists. We are now left with no option but to pick up the pieces as we are going forward to Martinique and other countries that are now requesting Sarafina!. Any debts and monies that you are owed should be directed to Mr Qobolo in his personal capacity.”
He then provided the cast with Qobolo’s address.
Qobolo, a banker by trade who said he has been working with Committed Artists to professionalise the company, denied that he had resigned, but said: “I am happy to walk away if that’s what they want.”
He said that Ngema’s WhatsApp message was “unfortunate” and answered all of the questions City Press put to him.
Qobolo said the cast had been told several times that the producers were relying on box office takings after sponsors dropped the show at the last minute. He praised Joburg Theatre – which confirmed the events, but did not want to comment further – for stepping into the breach.
Qobolo said that he, Ngema, the choreographer and marketing team had not received any pay for putting on the Joburg leg of the show so far, but assured the upset cast and crew that they would still be paid – if not by the end of this week as originally promised, according to sources.
“I took it upon myself to pay the 30% from my own money and I am in discussions with business associates to do exactly that. [The cast] just need to give me a little more time. I am not running away from my word.”
Qobolo also told City Press that not all costs were yet covered for the show’s run at a festival in Martinique, but said raising the money “is not too big of a challenge … The important thing is that Sarafina! returns to international stages.”