Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Court dismiss Balobedu Royal Council's urgent interdict to prevent MultiChoice and M-Net's Queen Modjadji drama series from starting Sunday on Mzansi Magic.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and M-Net's Queen Modjadji drama series will start this Sunday night on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) as originally scheduled after the Balobedu Royal Council's court application to interdict its airing failed in court on Tuesday afternoon.

The Balobedu Royal Council tried to block Queen Modjadji from being broadcast, although MultiChoice and M-Net were sure that the interdict would not be granted to keep the Rhythm World Productions drama series from airing. Advocate Louis Kok represented the Balobedu Royal Council.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon dismissed the Balobedu Royal Council's application. Advocate Terry Motau SC represented MultiChoice.

Rain Queen Masalanabo Modjadi is represented by the Balobedu Royal Council who opposes MultiChoice and M-Net's making of the series, although Prince Lekukela Modjadji who is represented by the Modjadji Royal Council decided to work with MultiChoice and M-Net to produce the multi-million rand Queen Modjadji series. 

Although a broadcaster or production company is not obliged to consult or even employ researchers for the creation of a fictional work of art – even if based on, or inspired by real-life people or events – MultiChoice, M-Net and Rhythm World Productions did pay for research and consultation with tribal leaders, academic experts and other stakeholders to make Queen Modjadji.

Queen Modjadji the series is inspired by the first legendary Queen Modjadji, whose bloodline ruled has ruled Southern Africa’s Lobedu clan for centuries.

Motau argued that "even if a fictional drama series based over 200 years ago can be said to engage the rights of the applicants, the applicants have set out no evidence at all that the series will cause any harm".

"If it's not clear to audiences from this alone that the series is a work of fiction, although historically inspired, then also at the start of each episode the following wording is shown: 'HISTORICAL DRAMA INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS'. A longer disclaimer also follows at the end of each episode."

Judge Jacques Minnaar who dismissed the Balobedu Royal Council's interdict application, said a work of fiction won't infringe on the rights or dignity of the Balobedu.

"They knew about the series as early as June 2023. Instead, they waited for the production to be completed. It's difficult for the court to comprehend how the rights of the queen will be infringed by this work of fiction and in essence the matter lacks a sense of urgency. The matter is struck off the roll," Judge Jacques Minnaar said.

MultiChoice in response to the court decision, says it "welcomes the ruling from the Pretoria High Court dismissing the urgent application by the Balobedu Royal Council to stop the broadcast of the Queen Modjadji series".

"We undertook the necessary protocols and extensive consultations with cultural experts as part of the production process. The production of Queen Modjadji plays a pivotal role as it impacts the economy, job creation and livelihoods within the industry."

MultiChoice reiterated that "The story is inspired by the Balobedu legendary rainmaker, the first Queen Modjadji, and we are excited for our customers to go on the journey of this thoroughly researched African story."