EXCLUSIVE: SAGA addresses the alleged exploitation of extras on the set of ‘Shaka Ilembe’ season 2

The cast of “Shaka iLembe” in scene. Picture: Instagram

The cast of “Shaka iLembe” in scene. Picture: Instagram

Published May 28, 2024


The SA Guild of Actors (SAGA) is looking into a case of gross exploitation after complaints from numerous extras on the set of the second season of “Shaka Ilembe”.

According to SAGA chairman Jack Devnarain, more than a hundred individuals were brought to Joburg from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga at their own cost to work on the second season of the popular production since the end of April.

Devnarain said his team visited the them to get clarity on the matter.

“Last Wednesday, I went out to one of the houses in Kempton Park, where more than 30 people were staying. There was a particular extra, a 55-year-old woman, who told us that they had no food, so we took food to her.

“She was terrified to speak to us. She said that the agent is there and watching her and she is afraid of what is going to happen if she’s seen talking to us...

“She said she was required to pay R50 a day in rental just to stay in that accommodation. She had to travel from Durban to Johannesburg at her own cost.

“She said she was promised work as an extra, so she came up on April 27 and, up until May 22, she had only worked one day.”

The woman was still required to still pay for rent and to buy her own food and was not receiving any support from the agent, he said.

Later that night, on May 22, Devnarain said he had received a call from the woman, saying that she had been kicked out of the accommodation and everyone was being put into taxis and taken to an undisclosed location in Tembisa but she was not among them.

“She was fired and she spent the night outside in a veld,” said Devnarain.

After hearing the woman’s plea, he took to social media where he shared a message for others affected by this matter to come forward.

The woman also alleged that the Kempton Park house was not the only place the extras where being kept, he said.

“She revealed that there are other houses and an entire tented camp in Cosmo City, which is built in a open veld ...

“After sharing the message on social media, well over a hundred people came forward. There was so much material, I had to be very careful how to curate all of it.

Jack Devnarain. Picture: Instagram

“It was astounding to me that you have well over a hundred people being housed in different places and it seemed ridiculous to me that the production company itself, Bomb Production, apparently had no knowledge of the conditions they were being kept in,” said Devnarain.

He also confirmed that SAGA is in possession of the names of the three agencies that offered jobs to these individuals.

“People bought into the story, they bought into the series as loyal viewers and for poor destitute people to be offered an opportunity to perform on the production even as a background actor meant the world to them.”

Since the issue came to light, Devnarain, through SAGA, has drafted an affidavit to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, detailing what was communicated to them.

“We have included several screen shots and WhatsApp conversations in the affidavit. We are hoping that the Directorate for Priority Crimes is going to investigate further. Hopefully, they see that there is potentially a crime that has occurred and will investigate accordingly.

“Let’s see if that can be brought towards a prosecution, depending on what’s revealed through their findings.”

Meanwhile, Bomb Productions, responsible for popular shows like “Yizo Yizo”, “Zone14” and “Jacob’s Cross”, is investigating the matter.

They maintain that their production house never requested or authorised the agencies in question to cast these individuals.

“Our investigation found people had paid the casting agency for accommodation but were living in what we deemed an unsafe and undignified makeshift camp-site.

“Bomb management acted swiftly, demanding Becky Casting address the worrying situation and disband, we also informed the local authorities.

The statement continued: “The film and television industry is a huge creator of employment. ‘Shaka Ilembe’ season 1 employed over 8 000 people and this number will increase in season 2.

“We are thus deeply aggrieved by the scurrilous behaviour of casting agents for tarnishing the reputation of Bomb and this important historical project, which creates employment for so many.”

An official statement by MultiChoice stated that they had been made aware of the unauthorised camps established by casting agencies near the shooting locations for “Shaka Ilembe” season 2.

“These camps, housing hundreds of extras in unsafe and closed quarters, are not sanctioned by MultiChoice or any official partners associated with the series.

“At MultiChoice, the safety and well-being of everyone involved in our productions are our highest priorities. We adhere to stringent safety protocols and operational standards to ensure a secure and professional environment for all cast and crew members.

“The unauthorised camps identified are in direct violation of these standards and pose serious risks to participants. We strongly advise all extras and potential participants to only engage with verified and legitimate casting agencies affiliated with our production.”

After the popular first season, “Shaka Ilembe” was given the green light for season 2.

Produced for MultiChoice by the award-winning Bomb Productions, season 1 showcased the origins story of the legendary African King, culminating with a victorious Shaka returning to take the Zulu throne.

Season 2 is set to pick up the story as he begins his long prophesied reign, writing himself into history.

The new season will see new characters and story arcs delivered with the same polish as season 1, with the stellar cast led by renowned actress, Nomzamo Mbatha.