Popular SABC television drama Uzalo has taken centre stage, not on TV, but instead at the KZN legislature where opposing parties are questioning the R5 million funding the show has received from the KZN government – a fact that is called into further question by President Jacob Zuma’s daughter being one of the show’s executive producers.
However, ANC legislators defended the funding by eThekwini Metro Municipality, saying the drama had raised Durban’s profile.
The debate on Thursday over the drama, of which Gugulethu Zuma is one of the executive producers, erupted during the debate on the Economic Development and Tourism budget being tabled by MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu.
The National Freedom Party’s Happy Khuzwayo said her party was concerned that the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, which is one of the entities funded by the department, was not given enough money to help emerging talent in the film industry.
“We are [also] worried that this government has provided funding opportunities for people who are already established have political connections to the ANC,” said Khuzwayo.
“A prime example is the financial support given to UZalo, which is produced by president Zuma’s daughter, Gugu Zuma. The ANC- led eThekwini municipality gave this drama R5 million.”
The ANC’s Sibonisa Duma retorted that Gugu Zuma had benefited from a project that aimed to correct past imbalances and being the President’s daughter did not exclude her from that process of correcting those past imbalances.
“You might think that is not correct for Gugu Zuma to get support because of her surname, but you need to look deeper into the matter. She is born in Nkandla, she is part of rural community and she is an individual on her own,” Duma said.
MEC Mabuyakhulu accused Khuzwayo of failing to look at the spin-offs from the supporting of the drama, which he said included raising the profile of Durban and KwaZulu-Natal for filming purposes.
Opposition partiess welcomed some of the interventions made by the department to create jobs, but expressed reservations about the slashing of the budget.
The television series Uzalo tells the story of Mdletshe and Xulu families in KwaMashu who are connected by the fact that their eldest sons were switched at birth during the heady days towards the end of apartheid when Nelson Mandela was released.
The Mdletshe family presides over KwaMashu Kingdon Church, while the Mdletshe’s head up a car theft syndicate.
When it first aired in February 2015, its premier episode attracted some five million viewers. The drama is filmed in KwaMashu.
The two other executive producers are Duma ka Ndlovu and Pepsi Pokane.