The bad and ugly of South Africa’s TV soapies in 2020

Jaw-dropping, scandalous and dramatic are just some of the words we could use to describe 2020 in the South African television industry. From Ferguson Films’ alleged exploitation and dropping of actors like hot potatoes, to actors leaving Isibaya in their wake, viewers have seen and heard it all. 

Here’s a recap of some of the soapies that had South Africans at the edge of their seats and not just because of plot twists.

FERGUSON FILMS’ ALLEGED EXPLOITATION

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Actor Mlamli Mangcala, who plays Captain Sthembiso, quit ‘The Queen’ amid claims of exploitation. Image: Supplied

In 2019, actress Vatiswa Ndara caused a social media storm with an open letter she had written to Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa. In it she spoke of the exploitation of actors, which sparked rumours that she was referring to her former bosses the Fergusons.

Wife and husband Connie and Shona Ferguson are the producers of The Queen, which airs on Mzansi Magic. They landed themselves in Mzansi’s bad books in 2020 after several former employees claimed all that glitters is most certainly not gold behind the scenes at the show.

Former The Queen actors and actresses like Sello Maake ka Ncube Rami Chuene, Dineo Langa, Mara Louw, Keke Mphuthi and Mamli Mangcala publicly spoke of their alleged exploitation and mistreatment. 

Earlier in 2020, Mangcala who played the role of Captain Sithembiso Radebe, also issued a statement accusing the Fergusons’ production company of deception and exploitation during his four seasons on The Queen

FALL FROM GRACE FOR ‘ISIBAYA’

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Isibaya’s renewal is still up in the air. Image: Supplied

Isibaya went from being a telenovela back in 2013, when it premiered, to one of the long-standing soapies in prime time on Mzansi Magic. Daily Sun was the first publication to report that Isibaya’s contract would not be renewed for a new season.

According to the publication, Isibaya had not been attracting the sort of ratings that would represent success for its timeslot — it turns out Isibaya is no longer even in the top five of most-viewed programmes on DStv. 

Earlier in 2020, rumours surfaced that veteran actor Menzi Ngubane (who played Judas Ngwenya) was fired from Isibaya, but he took to Instagram to set the record straight about his exit.

Judging by the number of actors who continue to walk away from Isibaya — Nomzamo Mbatha, Siyabonga Thwala, Muzi Mthabela, Sdumo Mtshali and others — it will come as no surprise if Isibaya’s contract is not renewed. 

‘UZALO’ GETS CANNED

Popular SABC 1 soapie Uzalo was also rumoured to be going off air after its contract with producers ended in October. After weeks of speculation, the SABC finally confirmed that the most-watched TV show has been renewed until 2023 in a lucrative deal with the SABC.  

THE MOST-WATCHED SHOWS ON DSTV

Gomora has dethroned The Queen as the most-watched show on DStv by almost 22,000 viewers. The shows have more than 1,317-million and 1,295-million viewers respectively. 

According to the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa’s November statistics, these are the country’s most-watched shows:

  1. Gomora
  2. The Queen
  3. Idols SA 
  4. Uthando Nesthembu
  5. The River

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