Historians threaten to block screening of ‘Shaka-ILembe’

Three KwaZulu-Natal-based families – the Mhlongos, Mthethwas and Mbathas – are threatening to block the release of the highly anticipated drama series Shaka iLembe.

The families accuse series producer Angus Gibson of stealing their intellectual property.

“In 2019, we were approached by the producers of this drama series seeking information about King Shaka and his mother, Queen Nandi,” said Mhlathuze Mhlongo, a historian and spokesperson for the Mhlongo family.

“We were picked up from our homes and taken to Ballito where we stayed for about three days. During those days, we were filmed and we were narrating each and every detail about King Shaka and Queen Nandi. We even took them to all the locations where Shaka lived as a teenager.

“We also showed them the river where Nandi bathed every morning and all the places she liked. We know this information because both King Shaka and his mother, Queen Nandi, were from the Mhlongo clan.”

He said the families were the main source of information and had participated actively in the making of the drama series.

“During our stay [at Ballito], we told Gibson that a certain percentage of royalties must be given to all the families that were involved in the creation of this drama series. He had no problem with this, and promised to sort it out with his team in Johannesburg.

“After giving them the information, they left KwaZulu-Natal for Johannesburg and we were under the impression that they will come back for the shoot, but we were wrong.

“They started shooting in Johannesburg and they wanted us to go there and burn impepho [an incense] to awaken the spirits of Nandi and Shaka. We refused and told them that it is against our culture, and that Nandi and Shaka’s place of birth is in KwaZulu-Natal, not in Johannesburg.

He added that the producers were told they would not be entertained further until a discussion over royalties was held.

A historian from the Mthethwa family, Phila Mthethwa, said: “We phoned and we texted them [drama series producers] but they ignored us, they actually excluded us from the production,” said Mthethwa.

“Therefore, we regard this as theft of intellectual property, and we will not let them use it anywhere until this issue is resolved. We will interdict them if needs be.”

Sunday World has seen the messages from the families instructing the producers not to go ahead with the screening of the drama series until an agreement over royalties has been reached.

Gibson was approached for comment, but he failed to answer his phone. He also failed to respond to text messages.

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