July 18, 2023

Gqeberha The Empire crumbles!

isiXhosa telenovela Gqeberha The Empire said to be coming to an end
Pictures: Supplied

Set in the friendly city of Gqeberha, the show follows themes of dynasty, family, love, betrayal, polygamy and jealousy. Gqeberha The Empire was meant to be one for the books; the first isiXhosa telenovela shot in the Eastern Cape and unearth new and fresh talent from the province. It was meant to create employment for the Eastern Cape province and uplift the community. But the telenovela, only in existence for one season has been followed by controversy. There was chaos even before the show was launched in January this year. Now actors have had enough and are voicing their grievances as the show is said to be drawing to a close on season one.



A community member from Gqeberha says the show has done nothing but bring division and anger to the community. Community leader Luthando Sesimane tells ZiMoja, �"The show does not represent us. The language use on the show is not authentically ours. Secondly, very few people from Gqeberha have been employed, either actors or service providers, on the show. When Arts and Culture funded the project, they stated that it would uplift the community of Gqeberha. The stylists, make-up artists, crew and the majority of the cast are not from Gqeberha. So, how is it empowering the community?”


Since the show started, actors have complained about the ill-treatment and â€?"terrible pay” that they receive from the highly acclaimed and award-winning production company. One actor, tells ZiMoja that she was living in dire conditions when she first arrived in Gqeberha. â€?"They put us up in a dump basically. The place was not liveable, especially for an established actor,” she says. Fearing to express the details of the treatment as she might lose her job, the actor says, â€?"Things seem better but they are worse for others.” 



When questioned earlier this year about whether actors had been provided accommodation while based in Gqeberha, Tshedza Pictures Management says, �"All actors who indicated to production that they didn’t have accommodation in Gqeberha have been provided accommodation.” One actor complained about not receiving money for food while on set and had to beg from colleagues. In a proposal sent to the funders, seen by ZiMoja, Tshedza quoted R1862 600 Per Diem. �"Imagine working for one of the biggest production companies that created shows like The River and struggling to eat on set,” the actor says. Tshedza tells ZiMoja, �"Per Diems are not paid when a shoot lasts a full year, as this is not considered a location shoot, as the entire lead cast and crew are based in Gqeberha for the full year and will be living there. Advances were offered to actors who had financial challenges ahead of the payroll date."




Another actor says that after being cast for the role in Johannesburg he had to transport himself to Gqeberha and find his own accommodation. �"I had to take a taxi from Park Station to PE and find my way around. I am not from there. I did not even have a cent to travel.” The production company says that, �"Transport for actors who had indicated that they were outside of Gqeberha was covered by the production.” The production says they have continued to engage with actors constantly and their agents are also another avenue for actors to express their grievances, and production has continued to address all actors’ challenges as they arise. We have assembled a team of established actors and new faces from all over the Eastern Cape, including Gqeberha and the whole country, to bring this beautiful story to life.”




The show is said to be allegedly coming to an end and will not be continuing with more seasons. One actor says they heard this through the grapevine. "We were not told by the production, after having to reshuffle our lives around and move to PE for a year. Now we have to leave again,” he says. �"There have been more bad things happening on this production than good. We have tried to cover up the mess but it is too much now.Actors are underpaid and some starve on set.” A few months ago, management met up with the actors to try and resolve their queries. �"But things are worse now,” the actor concludes.

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