Monday, October 25, 2021

Rhodes University to bestow honourary doctorate on isiXhosa news anchor Noxolo Grootboom.


by Thinus Ferreira

At its second virtual graduation ceremony for Masters and PhD students on 29 October the Rhodes University will bestow an honourary doctorate's degree on the isiXhosa news anchor Noxolo Grootboom who had to retire from the South African public broadcaster earlier this year.

Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape says that Noxolo Grootboom is recognised nationally for her significant promotion of national pride and culture through her journalistic career that spans over 37 years.

"Noxolo Grootboom's legendary status is derived from her contributions in the broadcasting industry and to South Africa as a whole, through performing her career responsibilities in ways that inspired many citizens, even during the most difficult times."

"Her uncanny ability to connect with her audience through the powerful medium of her language and drawing from her culture distinguished Mam' Noxolo as the face and voice of the nation during historic national events such as elections."

"At the height of her career, she embodied the national emotion as the anchor for the funerals of important South African figures."

Dr Siwe Mabizela, Rhodes University vice-chancellor, says "Our nation owes her an unpayable debt of gratitude and appreciation for all that she has done to give much-needed hope to many South Africans in times of national loss and despair and for being a passionate advocate of the isiXhosa language in our society".

"Mam' Noxolo read the news so beautifully and with such pride. We thought it was important for Rhodes University to acknowledge her many contributions to our society."

"Her trademark sign-off line: 'Nanga ngobubusuku ningalala nombethe ingubo yemvisiswano, uxolo, nothando. Ndinithanda nonke emakhaya' will remain her profound and lasting gift of love, peace and care to our nation. Her humility and humanity is something that will never be forgotten. She deserves this highest honour of the University."

Noxolo Grootboom was born on 8 October 1960 in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape and spent the best part of her formative years in Tyatyorha location in Healdtown, Fort Beaufort. 

She went to do her primary school years between Healdtown Primary School in Fort Beaufort, Lovedale Primary School in Alice and Davis Primary School in Butterworth. She did her high school years in Lamplough High School and Bethel College in Butterworth.

In 1981, she moved with her siblings to Soweto, where she enrolled in a computer course at a Computer Academy.

On 1 December 1983, she joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as a typist and after spending three years on the job, she was appointed as a production assistant. 

During this time, she was mentored by senior journalists as her interest at the time was storytelling. Later, she would start serving as a current affairs producer and a field journalist and later became a news anchor.

In 1990, her big break came when she was asked to stand-in for the late Mam' Thandi Mesetywa's news anchor to read a bulletin. The station was impressed enough that they asked her to continue to anchor the isiXhosa news.

She then saw this as an opportunity to continue the legacy of the broadcast stalwarts who came before her. 

As a result of being entrusted with critical broadcast events, she was known as "the undertaker" and was tasked with anchoring SABC live funeral broadcasts of some prominent leaders in the country. 

She anchored the funerals of high-profile politicians such as Chris Hani, the PAC’s Sabelo Phama, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Joe Slovo, Oliver Tambo, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Walter Sisulu, Albertina Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Steve Tshwethe and Akhumzi Jezile.

After 37 years of public broadcast service, Mam' Noxolo read her last bulletin on 30 March 2021. 

She left the SABC as an editor of the isiXhosa news bulletin and was recognised on this day by South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa, who delayed his national address during the Covid-19 pandemic since it clashed with Noxolo Grootboom's last TV news bulletin.

Noxolo Grootboom says "I feel so speechless; I am out of words to thank Rhodes University for the honour bestowed on me".

"Each event of my life is a life lesson that cannot be merely explained. Even though I had minimal opportunities to further my studies, it seemed as if my dreams about my future were perishing."

"Today, Rhodes University teaches me that hope is always ignited when it seems as though your dreams are perishing. And when that hope is ignited, it leads you to a new dream. Today, I feel like I am a living example to the youth. This is because, when you devote yourself to your work, new opportunities open up. I am very thankful to Rhodes University for this opportunity."


Justice Malala returns to eNCA for limited late-night series, The Last Word with Justice Malala, covering South Africa's 2021 municipal elections.


by Thinus Ferreira

The political commentator Justice Malala is returning to eNCA (DStv 403) for a limited series, The Last Word with Justice Malala, to cover South Africa's upcoming 2021 municipal elections.

Justice Malala exited the South African TV news channel three years ago in July 2018 after his long-running political interview show The Justice Factor got cancelled.

eNCA is running an on-air promo for The Last Word with Justice Malala, nothing that the limited series will start today, Monday 25 October, and will run until 4 November.

The Last Word with Justice Malala has been scheduled for a 22:00-timeslot on eNCA.

eNCA issued no programming advisory or press release to the media about The Last with Justice Malala.   

South African public broadcaster hit by yet another blackout of its SABC TV channels on Sunday - the second this month - without any explanation over the cause as it 'experience broadcast system challenges'.


by Thinus Ferreira

On Sunday night the South African public broadcaster was once again hit by an unexplained blackout of all of its SABC TV channels that lasted for well over an hour - the second SABC on-air blackout this month.

Sunday's SABC TV blackout on 24 October comes just two weeks after the SABC's TV channels also went off air in another unexplained blackout on 9 October.

The SABC gave no explanation as to the cause of its television blackout and issued no statement to the media, only saying in a social media post that the SABC blackout is related to "broadcast system challenges".

The SABC's TV channels went dark on free-to-air terrestrial broadcasting done by Sentech, as well as digital broadcasting with its TV channels also going black on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service on Sunday.

SABC TV channel viewers got a black screen with a high-pitched beep, ruining the finale of Hush Money on SABC1, amongst other shows. 

The SABC TV blackout affected literally millions of viewers in South Africa with the broadcaster that didn't want to give any explanation for its channels that abruptly went off air.

"We are experiencing broadcast system challenges on our free-to-air (FTA) television channels on linear and DStv platforms," the SABC said.

We are working around the clock to resolve the matter and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused".

Hush Money co-creator Siphosethu Tshapu, slammed the SABC TV blackout on social media as "sabotage", saying " that the SABC "is sabotaging us".


'BLACK SCREEN'. MultiChoice faces ongoing barrage of customer complaints following its botched DStv app update, 'nothing works', 'was this version even tested?' angry DStv subscribers ask.


by Thinus Ferreira

DStv subscribers are complaining that they're struggling to watch and access DStv content after MultiChoice updated its streaming DStv app in mid-October with an ongoing barrage of complaints from users that they've been left with nothing but "a black screen" and that the app no longer works properly.

MultiChoice launched an update for its DStv app almost two weeks ago on 13 October and since then DStv subscribers say it's not working properly and that they're struggling to use DStv's video streaming service like they did before. 

The PR firm JR Communications that represents MultiChoice told TVwithThinus in response to a media query made last week seeking comment about the DStv app update that it would revert in due course, but didn't respond with any answers to the questions by the publication of this report this week.

The DStv app received an update to improve the user interface (UI) on its latest DStv Explora Ultra decoder, Smart TV sets and Android and Apple TV boxes.

MultiChoice said when it updated the DStv app that it had improved the user interface on these devices for "an improved viewing experience for our customers and a sleek new user interface that makes it easier for you to discover and enjoy the best in local and international content".

DStv subscribers trying to use the DStv app after the update have been left incredibly frustrated the past week and a half with daily litany of complaints across social media and on the Google Play Store about how bad the app now is from users in South African and from across the continent.

"DStv Now is not working at all," said one subscriber. "Just a black screen when I open the app. DStv fix this. You're on the verge of losing subscribers."

Another said that "We can't watch because the DStv app freezes. Live TV, Catch Up - nothing works."

"DStv, when are you going to sort the live stream jitter on the streaming? All worked well before the app update," another DStv subscriber said.

Another remarked: "The new DStv Now app is terrible. I have to reboot my media player all the time now. DStv guide when flipping between channels is hopelessly behind schedule! Was this version even tested before being pushed out to your paying customers?"

Jermyn Haripersad noted that "The DStv Now app for a Smart TV is absolutely the worst app I've used. The screen consistently goes blank with only sound playing in the background".

Lwandlolubanzi Ndebele said that "The DStv Now Smart TV and Android update has to be the worst I have ever seen. Slow, riddled with crashes and bugs. Thousands of down reviews on the Google Play Store, they don't care about customers otherwise would've done something by now. Bring back the old app DStv".

"DStv when are you going to fix this DStv app that you managed to have broken so horribly!" asked Cobus Viljoen. "At this point in time it's a useless app that doesn't work".


kykNET still silent over whether its Silwerskermfees is still on or off for 2021 or what's happening with its film festival this year.


by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net's Afrikaans language channels division is silent and not telling South Africa's TV and film industry or the media anything regarding either the continuation or cancellation of this year's kykNET Silwerskermfees for 2021, with the film festival that looks like it has been scrapped for the year.

kykNET didn't respond with any official answers to a media query TVwithThinus made just over a week ago asking about whether 2021 will still see a kykNET Silwerskerfees being held.

November is the only late-in-the-year month remaining for a possible film festival, with December essentially a write-off month as the film and TV industry worldwide shuts down for the silly season and vacation.

It's also unclear, if the Silwerskermfees were to take place, whether it would be in-person, a hybrid, a virtual webinar, and if it would be branded as the 10th or 11th kykNET Silwerskermfees.

In 2020 the kykNET Silwerskermfees was turned into an online webinar series in 2020 because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with the 9th kykNET Silwerskermfees that took place as an in-person event in August 2019.

In July, responding to a similar media query about the Silwerskermfees' future in 2021, Suzaan Keyter, kykNET spokesperson told TVwithThinus that no dates have been announced yet. 

"Plans are still underway but we are keeping tabs on the unfolding situation before we make any announcements. We have several options and dates for the film festival as well as the content. Planning continues behind-the-scenes for three different options," she said.

The kykNET Silwerskermfees website at www.silwerskerm.tv lists "Tuesday 24 - Saturday 28 August 2021" - a period that came and went without anything announcement from kykNET.

The website contains no information, with no notifications or advisories for the industry about what's happening with the film festival in 2021.

Over the past half a year, various people working across South Africa's TV and film industry, from filmmakers to crew and on-screen talent who are interested in the film festival, have asked TVwithThinus what is happening with the kykNET Silwerskermfees in 2021 and whether it is still going to be taking place.

The MultiChoice Group and M-Net scrapped and cancelled plans for both the 2021 African Magic Viewers' Choice Awards in Lagos, Nigeria and the 2021 DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards in Johannesburg this year because of Covid-19.

In June the 23rd 2021 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival took place as a virtual film festival.

In July the 12th Durban FilmMart took place as a virtual online event, similar to 2020, with the DFM that was followed by the 42nd Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in late July that was accessible as a free virtual event.

In May, the National Film and Video Foundation's 15th South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) returned from 2020's botched virtual online broadcast back to a televised awards show, but did so without an in-person audience. 


MultiChoice and M-Net will hold the 8th Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards in Nigeria in 2022, will add DStv channel showing live festivals and events from across West Africa.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and M-Net West Africa have announced that that it plans to hold its 8th Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards in 2022 with the Nigerian-centric awards show that will return after another year's absence in 2021 due to the ongoing global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, with MultiChoice that will also add a DStv channel showing live festivals and events from across West Africa.

MultiChoice and M-Net West Africa last held its Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards, the 7th edition on 14 March 2020 with a packed hotel auditorium audience, after which MultiChoice had to warn its thousands of MultiChoice and M-Net guests who physically attended in Lagos, Nigeria that they were likely exposed to Covid-19.

In 2021 MultiChoice and M-Net didn't organise any Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards due to Covid-19 and never officially announced that it's cancelled for this year.

MultiChoice didn't have the AMVCAs in 2019 and revived it for 2020 after a year's absence,  meaning that the pan-African awards show for the continent's film and TV industry has been an on-off, on-off event for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

At MultiChoice Nigeria's MultiChoice Content Showcase event that was held on Thursday in Lagos, Nigeria, the pay-TV operator announced that the 8th Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards will be taking place in 2022 again.

Busola Tejumola, MultiChoice Nigeria executive head for West Africa content and channels, also announced that MultiChoice will be adding a new DStv channel in 2022 showcasing live festivals and events from across West Africa.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Female SABC News crew held hostage by ANC supporters in Mpumalanga released after being threatened that their car will be burned and their equipment stolen.


by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster reports that a SABC News (DStv 404) crew consisting of two female journalists and a female camera operator held hostage and threatened by ANC supporters in Mpumalanga have been rescued by the South African police.

According to the SABC, around 20 ANC supporters in the community of Buffelshoek in Bushbuckridge held a SABC News crew hostage who were in the area to do coverage of the upcoming local municipal elections in South Africa.

The hostage takers threatened to burn the SABC News crew's vehicle and to take their equipment. They also demanded that the SABC News crew delete footage of interviews they had already done.

The SABC News crew were busy doing interviews when the people approached and refused to let them leave, saying that the news crew "neglected" to interview the specific ward councillor in the area.

The police had to rescue SABC News' Nhlamulo Mabaso, Lungile Nqcongwane and Motsebi wa Monareng and escort them to safety.

Slyvia Nxumalo, the mayor of the Bushbuckridge municipality, told SABC News that "it is unfortunate what happened in our municipality.  I think there is a need for people to be educated".

"They are here to make sure that people get information in every corner of this world. I think education needs to intensify to our public to understand the issue of the media."


American actor Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on set and kills his film's cinematographer and wounds director.


by Thinus Ferreira

American media reports that the American actor Alec Baldwin has accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on set and wounded the director of the film Rust after he fired a prop gun on the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico on Thursday.

Alec Baldwin shot and killed the Rust director of photography Halyna Hutchins (42) and wounded director Joel Souza (48). Halyna Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque where she was pronounced dead while Joel Souza was hospitalised and is in a critical condition.

Production on Rust has immediately and indefinitely been paused that Alec Baldwin wrote, produced and had a role in as the infamous outlaw Rust whose 13-year-old grandson is convicted of an accidental murder.

Halyna Hutchins is Ukrainian-born and has been working in Los Angeles. She grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle and attended the Kyiv National University where she graduated with a degree in international journalism before working for a period of time on British documentary productions as an investigative journalist 

"The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones," says Rust Movies Productions LLC in a statement.

"We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department's investigation."

"We will be providing counselling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event."

The Santa Fe Sheriff's Department in a statement said that "Alec Baldwin was questioned by investigators and released. No arrests or charges have been filed. This investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives."

America's SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, in a statement, say: "We are devastated by this tragic news".

"Our hearts go out to the family of director of photography Halyna Hutchins who has passed away and to director Joel Souza who is injured and hospitalised."

"This is still an active investigation and we do not yet have all the facts. We will continue to work with production, the other unions, and the authorities to investigate this incident and to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again."

Archenemy director Adam Egypt Mortimer, a film on which Halyna Hutchins worked previously, wrote on Twitter "I'm so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film".

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Alec Baldwin could be seen outside the the sheriff's office headquarters and was distraught and in tears while talking on his cellphone.

The accidental firing of guns that killed people on set in America have happened before, for instance the death of actor Jon-Erik Hexum in 1984 who accidentally shot himself on the set of the TV series Cover Up when he fired a gun loaded with blanks.

In 1993 the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, died after he was accidentally shot on set during filming of The Crow.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Blood Psalms to debut on MultiChoice's Showmax in February 2022, 'It was scary and a massive challenge,' says showrunner Layla Swart.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice, M-Net and Showmax's 10-episode African mythos series from creative duo Layla Swart and Jahmil X.T Qubeka's Yellowbone Entertainment will debut on Showmax in February 2022 with Jahmil X.T Qubeka who revealed that Blood Psalms will make its debut on the streaming service early next year.

MultiChoice did a "viewing" and panel discussion for Blood Psalms on Tuesday evening in Dubai as part of its Expo 2020 Dubai marketing exercise in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

MultiChoice's inexplicable move to do a first viewing and panel session for Blood Psalms in Dubai, inaccessible to local media, stirred anger and resentment under the South African press corps covering television, upset over the way in which MultiChoice is promoting so-called "homegrown TV series" like Reyka and Blood Psalms outside of South Africa's borders first.

Following ReykaBlood Psalms as a Showmax Original, is now the second series for which MultiChoice is doing foreign cast and crew panel sessions and previews - and first - but without any similar effort or the same access for series given to local press in South Africa.

Reyka made its debut screening at the Monte Carlo TV festival in Monaco in June where a cast and crew panel session for media and buyers was also held. M-Net did nothing similar in South Africa for the local media with no virtual or in-person media session, and requests to interview the showrunner that were ignored.

For Blood Psalms, MultiChoice decided that Dubai - months before the series' debut date - is more important than South Africa as the show's first stop for a viewing and cast and crew media session.

Ironically, although not unexpected, by Thursday afternoon only one of the media flown by MultiChoice to Dubai to cover its various Dubai Expo 2020 activities like the disappointing 1 Night With Mzansi variety special on Sunday night, have managed to file a report about Tuesday evening's Blood Psalms panel session.

Media flown at great cost to Dubai appeared more interested in sharing multiple lifestyle selfies on Instagram and Twitter about their weeklong MultiChoice-sponsored staycation than about what they went to presumably cover, snapping and sharing images from boat parties, hotel rooms, desert excursions and nightclub afterparties but with little to no reporting about MultiChoice, M-Net, DStv and Showmax and their actual content.

Layla Swart and Jahmil X.T Qubeka were joined in Dubai for MultiChoice's Blood Psalms panel session by cast members Zolisa Xaluva playing soldier Toka, and Zikhona Sodlaka who plays Sithenjwa, with the two characters who end up marrying each other.

Thando Tabethe plays Heka, a god manifesting as a physical being, with Faith Baloyi as Queen Assilli and the court's advisor with access to magic, while Bokang Pehalane is cast in the role of the teenage Princess Zazi trying to save her people from a world-ending prophecy.

Speaking about Blood Psalms in Dubai, Layla Swart said "I knew it was ambitious. I knew it was a longshot. And I knew it was going to be very difficult to present to any finance partner something so novel - something so, that has never been done before."

"We really fought to do it in vernac(ular language). The space of such a high-end production is also a space that we hope will be received internationally and globally and that often means that it needs to be in a language that is accessible."

"But I'm proud that we fought for that and I'm proud of the product that we've created. Jahmil and I have this saying of you must never be fearless but you must fear less. I think that really encapsulates what Blood Psalms was to us."

"It was scary, it was a massive challenge. We didn't know how we would do it. And I mean, every step was a challenge but we feared less."

Jahmil X.T Qubeka during Tuesday evening's panel discussion remarked that it's very important to have heroes "but because of our turbulent past, black South Africans don't have that. We don't have archetypes that we can hold onto."

"We've got Shaka. Maybe a few here or there. But you know what I mean. I talk in the contemporary space. It's very important that we see ourselves in projections - not just in our current situation, but in our possibility. And for me really that was the main mission: It's to bring back heroes again."


Desperate HouseWives are doing drug selling in e.tv’s latest drama series, 'important that we hear women's stories,' says actress Angela Lieveaux.


by Thinus Ferreira

e.tv has released a new locally-produced drama series, HouseWives, on its eVOD service with the story that revolves around desperate housewives starting a drug cartel that will unspool on its video streaming offering first before it is broadcast on e.tv.

HouseWives - produced by The Milton Empire (TME) with Siphosethu Tshapu as executive producer, Siphosethu Tshapu as head writer and Sevetian Su Ong Maslamoney as director of photography - consists of 26 episodes and filmed two seasons over 3 months, with the first episode that is now available on eVOD.

In releasing series episodes for streaming, eVOD is taking a weekly approach like Showmax, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, instead of releasing all content at once like Netflix, with a new episode of HouseWives that will become available on eVOD every Thursday.

HouseWives is available subscription free on e.tv's eVOD app or through the website with a broadcasting date on e.tv that hasn't been determined yet.

In HouseWives, the lives of three housewives are changed forever when their husbands are killed by a drug cartel boss. 

Akhona Khumalo (Sive Mabuya), Summer Pietersen (Angela Lieveaux), and Lawrencia "Lolo" Ntsimane (Gabisile Tshabalala) are left with the heavy debt left by their spouses' criminal activities and are forced to work for the Colombian drug cartel leader to pay off the debt - however, they end up deciding to outsmart the cartel boss and open a syndicate of their own.

Also starring in the show are Renate Stuurman as Dragon, Terrence Gumede as Loyiso MacDonald, as well as a supporting cast including Mavuso Magabane, Van-Lee Johnson, Louis Ngcayiya, Senzo Radebe and TK Sebothoma.

Gabisile Tshabalala in an interview on Thursday's edition of e.tv's The Morning Show said that shooting the series for her was "emotionally draining".

"It was tiring. I literally had to go on holiday alone, just to detox and debrief because I was literally living this person."

About playing three housewives who have to team up and support each other in a ruthless environment, she said "we built a very special relationship between the three of us because we really went in. We went all out into bringing out these characters."

Angela Lieveaux about depicting her character of Summer says "daily it was a struggle - I had to centre myself; there were moments that were very quiet on set for me before getting into a scene. There were moments where tears weren't coming, but the feeling was very much there. I was living, eating, breathing Summer".

She says that what viewers, especially women, watching HouseWives might come away with when seeing these women and their stories, is that "our adversities may appear different but we are so similar in nature. We are driven by inner strength and if we listen to that innate, resonating sound of our inner voice, we can go towards anything if we draw from our core strength."

"It's so important that we hear women's stories because we all have a story that should be told and it's powerful."