Zithulele Khwela and Zuz'muzi Music Demand R3-Million for Copyright Infringement in Umkhokha: The Curse
Popular songwriter and actor Zithulele Khwela, along with his record label Zuz'muzi Music, is embroiled in a legal battle with the producers of the television series Umkhokha: The Curse. The dispute arises from the unauthorized use of Khwela's songs in the series, which airs on Mzansi Magic, without his consent or permission. Furthermore, the producers have failed to compensate Khwela with the appropriate royalties for the utilization of his songs as theme music since their inclusion in the show back in 2021.
Among the songs that were allegedly used without Khwela's permission are notable hits such as "Mkhululi wezoni," "Mondliwa," "Mntanami," "Okoniwa ngomlomo," "Ngisize Mbelingangi," and "Umnendo." A reliable source close to the producers revealed that Zuz'muzi Music, owned by renowned producer and television actor Tshepo Nzimande, approached the production team, led by Duma Ndlovu, the producer of Muvhango, demanding millions of rands in royalties.
The requested amount includes the production costs, session fees for artists involved, and royalties for the usage of the songs as the series' theme music. However, Ndlovu allegedly claimed that he could not afford the demanded sum, stating that it exceeded the budget allocated by the channel for the show's production. He promised to make an offer to Khwela but warned that he would walk away if it was not accepted.
Tensions further escalated between Ndlovu and Nzimande when the latter released Khwela's songs on a popular digital music platform. However, Nzimande promptly removed the songs after receiving threats from Nzimande regarding their removal. Later, Ndlovu allegedly explained that he had released the songs due to pressure from the channel. He advised Nzimande to address the matter directly with the channel.
Nzimande, whose record label holds an artist agreement with Khwela and owns his publishing rights, took action by writing a letter to Nomsa Philiso, the Chief Executive Officer of General Entertainment at Multichoice. In the letter, Nzimande demanded royalties for Khwela and requested that the channel refrain from making the songs available for sale on any commercial digital platforms.
Furthermore, Nzimande questioned why Mzansi Magic had not provided payment to Khwela despite his previous complaints made in 2021. He also sought clarification regarding Ndlovu's claim of being the publisher of Khwela's songs and whether he had received any royalties from collecting societies.
Sources indicate that Philiso has expressed a willingness to resolve the matter and has requested the specifics of the compensation sought from the channel. Nzimande stated that they are seeking R3 million initially, but the final amount may be subject to adjustment following a comprehensive audit.
In addition to the ongoing dispute, Nzimande raised concerns about the release of Khwela's album, questioning how this could be accomplished when Ndlovu had credited himself as the publisher without a contractual agreement.
The problems for Khwela began when a composer, identified by Sunday World, presented his songs to the show's producers in 2021, portraying them as his composition. When the composer severed ties with the production house, he informed Khwela that his songs had been used without a proper contract and encouraged him to fight for his rightful royalties. The composer also revealed that Ndlovu had credited himself as the publisher of Khwela's music, despite lacking a contractual agreement.
Khwela subsequently entrusted Nzimande and Zuz'muzi Music with the responsibility of resolving the matter on his behalf. Nzimande declined to comment on the ongoing dispute, stating that he remains hopeful for an amicable resolution. Nomsa Philiso assured that the matter will be addressed on Tuesday, indicating a commitment to resolving the issue at hand.