South Africa soap opera stand-off stops filming

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The producer of the South African soap opera Generations has told the BBC he does not intend to comply with the contract demands of striking actors.

Nearly the entire cast of South Africa's most popular drama series did not turn up on set when filming of the show was supposed to restart on Monday.

They refused to sign contracts with "out clauses" which allow for characters to be killed off.

Producer Mfundi Vundla said flexibility was needed to make a ratings success.

The soap opera, which is produced by Mr Vundla's Morula Pictures for South Africa's SABC 1 channel, is also hugely popular across Africa and a big revenue earner for the public broadcaster.

'Well paid'

Mr Vundla said the trouble began at an anniversary party last month to celebrate 20 years of the show, which is set in the cut-throat advertising industry in Johannesburg and centres around the lives of the Moroka family.

Start Quote

We as the producers have the right to write out one or more existing members of the ensemble”

End Quote Mfundi Vundla Generations executive producer

At the party, SABC announced that Mr Vundla's company had secured a three-year contract to continue producing the show.

"All hell broke lose, the actors thought the three-year contract to my production company was an automatic three-year contract to them," Mr Vundla told the BBC's Newsday programme.

They then complained when he presented them with three-year contracts which had "out clauses" to allow for different storylines or new characters, he said.

"We as the producers have the right to write out one or more existing members of the ensemble," Mr Vundla said.

"This has been the modus operandi for the last 20 years."

He said the actors earned a good wage, some with a salary of 500,000 South African rand ($50,600; £31,600) a year.

"That's a lot of money in South Africa - it takes a chartered accountant about four years [to earn that]," he said.

According to South Africa's City Press newspaper, the actors have appointed a lawyer to negotiate with Mr Vundla over the contracts and other wage demands.

Mr Vundla said he was not ready to negotiate yet as he hoped that the "penny might drop" and that the actors would see his point of view.

There are enough episodes of the soap already filmed to air until the New Year.

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