Cape Town – The SABC2 soap Muvhango is slamming the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) for what it calls "growing scepticism" over the judges and judging process, saying the awards show isn't run independently enough to be a fair and isn't a true reflection of the best of South African television.
The Saftas that took place at Gallagher Estate this past weekend has been the subject of repeated criticism every year about how the award show is run, how shows are nominated and selected, how it's judged, who the judges are and over the perceived exclusion of women, minorities and smaller – especially black – producers.
This year Muvhango was nowhere to be seen due to an ongoing boycott of the awards show, with the country's only Venda soap that was also not included in the soap live performance tribute.
In previous years SABC2's 7de Laan and kykNET's Binnelanders didn't feature, and previously e.tv also pulled all its productions as well as soaps Scandal! and Rhythm City from Saftas contention.
This year viewers were not able to vote for SABC2’s Muvhango in the Most Popular Soap category or for SABC1’s Uzalo. It again, as in previous years, meant a hollow victory for SABC1's Skeem Saam since an incomplete list means viewers are not truly able to vote for who they want.
Adding to the irony is that Uzalo is SABC1's most watched show overall and most watched soap, and that Muvhango is SABC2's most watched show overall and most watched soap – both "most popular" in terms of the AR's of South Africa's TAMS viewership ratings system.
The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) excluded Muvhango from the Most Popular Soap category that viewers vote for this year because the Word of Mouth Productions didn't enter itself into any other categories, and said Uzalo was not a soap but a drama.
Saftas suffering from ‘major credibility issues’
"For a number of years there has been growing skepticism around the process followed by the organisers," Muvhango associate producer Morishe Matlejoane says in a statement to Channel24.
Muvhango says it will sit out the Saftas "indefinitely" until "a marked improvement is noted in the category nominations and selection process of the judges".
"In any contest where judges are selected 'within' the system and not independently set to be true independent critics, there will always be room to question," says the soap.
"The Saftas are not independently run to fully encompass every broadcast to give a true reflection of the South African TV landscape," says the soap. "There are people working alongside those who are nominated, people working for rival production companies, which all leads to major credibility issues".
"Until a solid and fair approach is taken in the selection process, we think it's unjustifiable to place our incredible cast and crew ensemble under the scrutiny of a system that is arguably unstandardised," says Matlejoane.
In response the NFVF tells Channel24 that "we have acknowledged that there is a need to refine the process of the Saftas, guidelines for submissions and the judging process".
"We are actively addressing this through ongoing engagement with the industry".
"There has been a recent marked improvement and firsts, namely this year saw the Saftas experiencing real transformation in terms of the nominations with over 40% being nominated to African individuals or production companies. Last year the percentage was lower at 26%".
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