IT WAS a phone call to a young cast member of hit musical Sarafina! that got award-winning producer and director Mbongeni Ngema – a husband of four women – into trouble.
Ngema said it was this phone call that led to claims of sexual harassment and intimidation being levelled against him.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, he said he had no personal relations with the young cast member who lodged a complaint. He was adamant that the allegations were an attempt to bring his name into disrepute and a means to disrupt the production being staged at the Joburg Theatre.
“I had a telephonic conversation with the young lady and beyond that nothing happened. The conversation is a matter that is under investigation and I am committed to co-operating in any investigations to be undertaken or being undertaken to resolve this matter,” he said.
He denied being removed as co-producer, asserting he was never part of the production in any capacity.
“I came on board for a limited period as a licensor in order to perform obligations of assessment, monitoring and quality control of the musical in terms of the license agreement,” he said.
The 64 year-old insisted that an online media report had been fabricated and designed by those with motives to discredit him.
“These kinds of unprofessional squabbles should not be accepted or entertained. We are of the view that the truth is what really matters in these issues and we will stand by it. My work involves many young talented people in the industry, young people who have dreams of making it in this sector locally and internationally,” said Ngema.
He said the attempt to settle personal scores would have minimal effect, if any, as “investors have a broader view of matters such as these and will look to the truth and the whole in decision-making on future productions”.
Ntombi Mashaba, a Joburg Theatre marketing manager, said copyrights are held by Ngema. As the licensor, he retains the right of assessment, monitoring and quality control of the musical during the agreement.
However, Sam Madikane, Ngema’s assistant stage manager, was suspended with immediate effect following his sexual harassment allegations pending a disciplinary hearing.
Mashaba said the young cast member was still part of the production and that an internal investigation was underway.
No criminal charges had been laid by the complainant, but she had been advised of her right to do so.
“Our main focus at this point is to ensure we conclude our investigation and provide adequate support to the cast throughout the run,” she said.
– Sunday Tribune