The Generations heartbreak

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Actor-Menzi-Ngubane-copyThe Generations soapie is turning into real drama.

Nothing is as heart-breaking as to be let down by your role model, something you look up to or someone whose achievements you wish to accomplish one day.

I must point out that for all of us who have looked up to the South African entertainment industry, its musicians, actors and poets feel lost by the sudden revelations that it is not all gloss, blitz and glamour as we always see through the screens.

Our own media has always compared our local productions and our failures using the South African creative sector as the shining example and yard stick.

The saga at Generations is a sad chapter, inspiration killer and wake up call to all those in the creative industry. They were supposed to be the “Jones” we try to keep up with.

Menzi Ngubane, aka Sibusiso Ngamla Dlomo, is a darling of millions and a role model to a lot of artistes since his days when he played the role of Mazwi in Ubambo Lwami in former time.

I could not help but shed a tear early this week as I watched him tearfully share his side of the story on the conditions at Generations to an equally tearful audience.

“When I was diagnosed with kidney failure at Helen Joseph Hospital, Mfundi did not say I must be taken to a private clinic.

Today I do dialysis four times a day. After seven weeks of being in hospital I got a call sheet saying I must come to work the Monday after being released on Friday. We are fighting for our rights.

This industry is tough it’s not glamorous and not everything is OK.

“We have families, some of us are married.” He said. He may be a very good actor, but surely those were not crocodile tears.

This sobered me up. When an artiste with so much to his name, earning between R55 000 to R80 000 per month as reported breaks such a sad story surely a feeling of despair suddenly engulfs many a person working in the creative industry.

The questions are if Menzi (Sibusiso), for crying out loud could not afford a private hospital, did not have medical aid and finds himself weeping when he has done so much for the arts, what then is the future of those that have achieved less than him? What can we say about the actor back in Bulawayo Zimbabwe hoping to be like him one day?

We may think this is a story far from us and probably question why for two weeks running I persist on writing about a South African soapie when there is so much to attend to in my motherland.

The fact is we need to draw a lot of lessons from our neighbours’ misfortune. What is the future of the creative industry? Is there an industry to talk about anyway? Are the arts a sustainable career?

What will happen to us when our voices stop singing, our feet cannot dance and we cannot perform anymore? When one day our health fails us or when it’s time to retire, is there a future for our stars, artistes’ musicians and dancers?

The truth is it does not look good at all. Even those in a better environment and with more opportunities as in South Africa, are clearly not safe.

A lot still has to be done before the creative industry is sustainable for careers.

Up to this day and age many insurance policies, loan schemes, investment packages and most importantly medical aid schemes still do not recognise the creative sector as employment.

Many a time I have heard artistes asked and be told: “You are such a great musician, your dances are amazing, so what else do you do for a living?” All this makes it difficult for artistes to at least prepare for darker days.

It’s not easy to keep money in a bank and the nature of the job does not even guarantee consistent reliable income. The best for many creative workers is to invest in properties.

Day in and day out artistes are blasted at their own funerals for having failed to save the “hay” while the sun shone but I think this has become a cliché.

Artistes consider their future. They are concerned about their retirement and none of them surely wants to end up a pauper.

Sadly though there are no real structures and programmes that give the creative sector that facility to make life and investment sustainable for its workers.

We need to take a leaf from the Generations saga and begin to plan for the sustainability and the future of our artistes.

The career is seasonal and when the dry season comes we need to have stocked well enough. Keep walking!