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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Parliament's portfolio committee on arts and culture calls for improvement of safety conditions on South African film sets; SA Guild of Actors calls for comprehensive enquiry after death of aspiring actor Odwa Shweni.

Parliament's portfolio committee on arts and culture on Wednesday in Cape Town said safety and working conditions on film sets must be improved as a matter of urgency.

It follows after the plunge-death of the aspiring actor Odwa Shweni (39) on Thursday last week when he fell 40 metres over a waterfall during a rehearsal for a fight scene for the film Outside at the Sterkspruit Waterfall in the Drakensberg.

His body was recovered on Friday morning at the Sterkspruit waterfall close to Monk's Cowl where he slipped and fell.

Sipho Singiswa, director of Outside, producer Gillian Schutte who didn't want to comment, as well as cast and crew members are apparently extremely traumatised about the death, after the production allegedly only paid the the R40 entrance fee as visitors and entered the park to rehearse scenes.

South Africa lacks and has no official, regulated national safety protocol for local film production, unlike the case for overseas productions.

Most film productions and production companies however have insurance that requires safety protocols and adherence to this.

"The untimely death of Odwa Shweni raises many questions about the safety procedures during filming and rehearsals, and this is a matter that should be looked in to with all urgency," Xoliswa Tom, committee chairperson said in a statement.

"The committee extends its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Odwa Shweni and wishes them strength during this difficult time."

Jack Devnarain, South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) chairperson told Radio 702 that several cast members of Outside were unhappy about how the film production was managed and that the production and the circumstances around Odwa Shweni's death must be investigated.

"This must be investigated. It has to be the subject of a comprehensive enquiry. Did producers take the time, put in the effort to follow basic industry guidelines? What steps did they take to mitigate them to protect the crew?" said Jack Devnarain.