e.tv's upcoming new local prime time soap Imbewu - The Seed set to start later this month on 16 April and already mired in controversy, is now also being rocked by distressing and serious sexual harassment allegations with the broadcaster that has started an investigation.
A woman, Amanda Phakathi, who has been employed as an Imbewu on-set extra, has come forward making allegations of bad on-set treatment and sexual harassment at the show filmed on location in KwaZulu-Natal.
She said that "male crew are perverts" in a message directed at executive producer Duma Ndlovu, claiming she felt "violated and unsafe", was shouted at, and was told by "the short chubby guy from admin" that trying to report the sexual harassment "won't help because I'm just an extra".
e.tv in response to a media enquiry tells TVwithThinus that the broadcaster is aware of the sexual harassment allegations, views all allegations of this nature as very serious, and has started an investigation.
Imbewu: The Seed is produced by Grapevine Productions, a joint venture between Videovision Entertainment, Word of Mouth Pictures and Luys Productions with Duma Ndlovu and Anant Singh.
The show, set to start on 16 April at 21:30 with Leleti Khumalo, Thembi Mtshali, Sandile Dlamini and Mpumelelo Bhulose already courted controversy earlier this year when the anti-Indian group knwon as the Injenje Yaba Nguni Council in February threatened to burn down Anant Singh’s Videovision offices if Imbewu dares to portray racial tensions between Indians and other groupings.
Imbewu: The Seed revolves around two brothers - one leading a rural life, the other one rich in the city. One can't father children and the other one is asked to impregnate his brother's wife in order to ensure the legacy and dynasty of the family name.
In the latest controversy, Amanda Phakathi who allegedly worked as an extra on the Imbewu set, wrote to Duma Ndlovu to complain about sexual harassment on-set, telling him that "you treat extras like nobodies!" and that "the way extras are treated there is disgusting! Those male crew perverts are disgusting as well!"
"Duma Ndlovu, I am very disgusted in the way extras are treated on-set for Imbewu. I was an extra recently and I'm not happy with the treatment. The crew is super unprofessional, I felt so violated and unsafe! First of all when I got there a young man named Njabulo swore at me because I banged the door by MISTAKE because I was carrying so many clothes for the shoot. He shouted at me like I'm a small kid and swore at me!"
"It doesn't end there.When the shoot began they called me in to be an extra for the scene. The men there (part of the crew I think) kept pointing at my legs and laughing. I felt so uncomfortable as if there was something wrong with me."
"When I spoke to the short dark chubby guy from admin asking him if I can report this, he said it won't help because I'm just an extra and even Duma Ndlovu won't help you because that's how extras are treated. Those were his exact words."
"I am so hurt I never want to be an extra on Imbewu ever again!"
Ziyanda Mngomezulu, the general manager for content services at e.tv, regarding claims of sexual harassment on-set at Imbewu - The Seed told TVwithThinus in a statement that "e.tv is aware of an allegation of sexual harassment on the set of its new drama series Imbewu: The Seed."
"eMedia Investments takes a zero-tolerance stance on sexual harassment and abuse, in any form, and views all allegations of this nature as very serious."
Ziyanda Mngomezulu, says that "the moment the channel became aware of this allegation, it initiated an investigation with the production company of Imbewu:The Seed."
"Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts, Grapevine has been unable to identify and make contact with the individual concerned."
"Grapevine will continue to make efforts to identify and reach her, in order to acquire more information and then take the appropriate action to address the matter. At this time neither we nor any producers are able to provide any further comment."
e.tv says that any information that may aid this investigation can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
America's hashtagged #MeToo movement borne in October 2017 following the revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against the ousted Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and now detailing the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the TV, film and entertainment industry but also other workplaces, has now crossed the Atlantic.
Women from the United Kingdom and India to South Africa have become vocal about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and more are sharing their personal stories.
In December 2017 the #NotInMyName organisation held public protest action at the entrance of the MultiChoice City headquarters in Randburg, Johannesburg, over allegations that female MultiChoice staffers have been raped and victimised through sexual harassment.
Protesters were furious over the way MultiChoice has allegedly not been doing enough to help a rape victim working at MultiChoice and to address sexual harassment of workers.
MultiChoice said the satellite pay-TV operator will start a "thorough investigation" after a South African woman who is still working for MultiChoice and previously said she was raped in 2014, allegedly made new and further revelations, saying she was also raped by senior MultiChoice colleagues in 2014.
The Sisters Working in Film and Television (Swift) group aimed at protecting and advancing the cause of women in the South African film and television industry, conducted research in 2017 with the study that uncovered widespread sexism, sexual harassment and unfair labour practices being experienced by women in the South African film and TV industry.
Over 70% of women surveyed and working in South Africa's film and TV industry said that they have felt violated in the workplace. Over 71% said that there was no platform or person available on-set that they could rely on for support or could report abuse.