The SABC yesterday apologised to traditional leaders for “overstepping
the mark” with the controversial coming of age drama Umthunzi Wentaba, writes Lulamile Feni in the Daily Dispatch.

The second part of the four-part series on traditional circumcision screened on SABC’s TV1 provoked an outcry from traditional organisations and activists.

The apology came after traditional leadership formations including the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders (ECHTL), its national counterpart, the Congress of traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the National Heritage Council (NHC) lodged complaints with the SABC over the drama last week, claiming that it dishonoured a sacred cultural practice of African people by revealing graphic details that have long been shrouded in secrecy.

As a result, the SABC suspended the four-part drama last week, 24 hours before episode three was to be shown on Thursday at 9pm.

“Had the concerns been unfounded the SABC would have continued to screen the series, SABC chief Dali Mpofu told reporters. “But the reality is that when viewing those episodes, I myself realised that some of the scenes had overstepped the mark and for that reason we took the decision (to suspend the drama),” he said.

Mpofu also announced that a national advisory panel would be set up in future to guide the SABC on how to handle sensitive cultural issues such as this one.

Mpofu lead the corporate’s top brass, including Mvuzo Mbebe, group executive of SABC’s Content Enterprise, corporate affairs group executive Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande and Eastern Cape regional manager Zola Yeye, in a meeting with traditional leaders including Contralesa president Nkosi Patekile Holomisa and his general-secretary Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, the ECHL chairman, Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima and his deputy Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe.

Also present at the meeting, held in East London, were kings Maxhoba Sandile, Mpendulo Sigcawu and Lwandile Matanzima, as well as the chief executive of the NHC, Sonwabile Mangcotywa.

When the delegates discussed the sensitivities of the drama series, the women participants, in line with African culture, including Ntombela-Nzimande, excused themselves.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the Dauly Dispatch's website.