Respected actress Florence Masebe put her reputation on the line on Tuesday when she deliberately and publicly called out an alleged "horrible racist incident" on the set of Mzansi Magic's new series Ring Of Lies.
Racism is out here dancing on our set.— Mme a Masakona (@FloMasebe) May 10, 2016
Masebe responded by by tweeting; "Racism is out her dancing on our set" which was followed by others tweet relaying her version of the incident. Upon seeing this on my timeline, I was obviously initially dismayed and then I got angry that such is still allowed to permeate our industry.
Naturally, I checked in with some few industry friends on this as well as followed the subsequent online discussion about this topic and two version of the situation started to emerge.
First one is that there is a clear problem on the set of Ring Of Lies that this incident just magnified.
Judging by the succeeding comment from Masebe's colleague, Dineo Nchabeleng, which read; This is the 2nd incident we've had on the set of #RingOfLies today and still we are meant to continue working!? What is happening?! There is no denying that there is a problem. Even if it is just a perception, that is still a problem.
This is the 2nd incident we've had on the set of #RingOfLies today and still we are meant to continue working!? What is happening?!— Dineo Nchabeleng (@dineo_nchbeleng) May 10, 2016
The second version to this is that soon after Masebe shared her view, a Twitter user by the name of @velvetarmjam responded by claiming Masebe's version of the incident was inaccurate and tantamount to defamation of character.
In his or her tweets [the account has since been deleted] she/he claims he/she had hot tea thrown in his or face and reacted to this by saying to the director;
"you don't understand my tone maybe because I'm white".
Now you have 2 versions of the same story. While Masebe's is supported by others who commented on her post it is fair to note that no-one has independently used the quote outside of Masebe's post. Thus this presents a clear case of he said, she said.
Beyond this Twitter episode though, a problematic issue has arisen here. There is an atmosphere of perceived or alleged racism that is happening on the set of the Penguin Films produced show. To ignore it would be a mistake.
Whether the verbal altercation between the said crew member and the director happened as indicated by either Masebe or the crew member, the fact still remains that it gave a platform for others within the production to point out a serious race relation problem.
I am by no means saying it is ok to charge someone [even just in the court of public opinion] with racism without due process but Masebe's act here is heroic in that she became the voice for a problem that was clearly an issue for black actors on that set but none of them were willing to speak publicly about it until she did.
Penguin Films is owned by veteran South African TV producer and creative producer and director Roberta Durrant, who apparently says that "Penguin Films have a policy of zero tolerance to any form of discrimination on any of the Penguin Films sets" and Mzansi Magic is said to be investigating the incident.
All this comes just over a month after actress Mbali Mlotshwa in late March claimed alleged racism on the set of the SABC's 7de Laan soap on SABC2 produced by Danie Odendaal Productions.
It's about damn time!!
Shall I tweet about the horrible racist incident we just experienced on this set?— Mme a Masakona (@FloMasebe) May 10, 2016
We can sit and debate the legal implications of Masebe's tweet and I would be the first to admit that she may have jumped the gun here but such acts are sometimes necessary. For someone like Masebe, who has been in this industry for years, there comes a time when you've had enough and know that you have enough clout to draw attention to a problem — and you use it!
See, for a long time in the entertainment industry, as in many arrears of business, the assumption that you could talk or treat black people worse than their white colleagues has largely been an accepted norm because blacks have allowed the industry to think they are doing them a favour by employing them.
In my 10 years in this industry I have seen artists, particularly black actors, kiss ass to be accepted. Not cognisant of the fact that in doing so, they established themselves as inferiors. The minute they stopped kissing ass to demand nothing more than reasonable treatment they got fired and replaced with other blacks willing to tow the line.
In taking this stand, Masebe has put herself at odds with the establishment. AND believe you me, the establishment still exists even though we have blacks sitting at the helms of industry boardroom tables.
Hell yeah, it is about time that black actors stand for something and say they will be treated with respect. It started with the Generations 16, though unfortunately their fellow black colleague led them down and did not offer them real support, and shall continue if creative practitioners like Florence Masebe are willing to put their neck out for greater good of all.