Viewer fury has engulfed M-Net's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel over the show Our Perfect Wedding that shocked viewers are slamming as a "disgusting shame" and said is "romanticising rape culture" with Absa that immediate withdrew its sponsorship of the show.
The barrage of complaints comes as the M-Net channel aired the last two episodes - this past Sunday's one taking things even further than the previous Sunday - proudly glamourising a groom who told of how he met his wife when she was just 14 and preyed on young girls.
Our Perfect Wedding showed "Fanie" telling viewers how he sexed school children as a 28-year old taxi driver and how his now wife had to compete for his attention.
Our Perfect Wedding on its official Facebook said bride Bavelile - as if she was in a reality show - "has outwitted, outplayed and outlasted all the women vying for Fanie's affections".
Our Perfect Wedding, produced by Connect TV owned by Basetsana Kumalo of SABC3's Top Billing fame, stoked the fires of viewers' discontent while none of the tone-deaf M-Net executives, commissioning editors and on-air quality control checkers apparently saw anything wrong with broadcasting the latest episode in the middle of the national 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse campaign.
At least once complaint has been formally laid with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) over Our Perfect Wedding and Absa abruptly pulled its sponsorship of the show on Monday that viewers slammed for condoning and glamourising statutory rape.
"We have withdrawn our sponsorship of Our Perfect Wedding with immediate effect. We have informed Mzansi Magic," says Byron Kennedy, Absa's head of media.
In a statement the Change Drivers' Network and the Sexual Reproductive Justice Coalition of South Africa slams Mzansi Magic and Connect TV, saying "considering the rate of sexual abuse in South Africa, it is disturbing to note how Our Perfect Wedding normalises this behaviour and turned it into a love story".
"It is unacceptable and as young leaders who deal with such issues every day, the ACTIVATE! Network demands that action be taken in this regard".
"Rape culture is so normalised and in a country like ours with the type of statistics around rape and gender based violence it is highly disturbing what we were shown on Mzansi Magic," says dr Tlaleng Mofokeng.
"Perverts and self confessed paedophiles get rewarded with a TV show on Mzansi Magic and nobody in the production saw anything wrong with the narrative."
"We are meant to be standing up for women and children who are abused. How is this episode in anyway assisting with this? How is this empowering to black women and children to stand up for what is right?"
"When we air shows that use content of rape and rape culture as entertainment we spit on the face of the law and people who are abused," says Tlaneng Mofokeng.
Mzansi Magic didn't bother to respond to specific questions regarding Our Perfect Wedding in a media enquiry from TVwithThinus following the barrage of viewer outrage and complaints over the shocking show.
Mzansi Magic late on Monday night suddenly said on its website that it would now "like to apologise for airing the segment that has upset our viewers", that the channel takes the concerns of viewers seriously and that the M-Net provided channel to MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform has "taken the decision not to broadcast the episode again".
A few hours earlier on Monday afternoon Mzansi Magic's publicity division issued a tepid, general statement, saying Mzansi Magic "note and acknowledge the concerns from our viewers regarding the Our Perfect Wedding episode" and that the programme's premise is to "celebrate love and the journey that couples take".
While Mzansi Magic initially sold and marketed Our Perfect Wedding to viewers as kasi escapism and light entertainment, the M-Net channel is trying to put a documentary spin on it, saying "our reality shows reflect society as it is. In the case of this episode, the couple's past brought up uncomfortable social issues which the family and community who were initially against the relationship, found a way to resolve".
Mzansi Magic says "we are committed to telling stories that impact our viewers and build our communities whilst challenging society". Mzansi Magic says the channel doesn't "condone any unlawful behaviour".