‘Tunga’ director at war with actors over production payments
Gloria Muruva Arts Correspondent
Producer and director of the popular local television series, “Tunga” has responded to allegations levelled against him by his actors who claim that he is selfish and a liar.
Some of the actors have said director Willard Magombeze, affectionately known as ‘Slimaz’, has not paid them for the past four years, did not treat them fairly, and, is working on another production with monies from “Tunga.”
In an interview with The Herald Arts, Slimaz said he was surprised with the news as he explained and cleared with everyone in the production about what had been happening.
He said he tried his best to cater for his casts but financial issues were a hindrance to the production.
“We are yet to be paid our production payment and last time we were offered local currency from our contractors, which I turned down because it was less than what we expected.”
“The money we got some of it we paid our debts,” he said.
“We were supposed to do season 10 but we agreed to stop because we did not have money for the production and that is when some of the actors had to go to other productions, but some were even willing to continue acting despite the financial challenges.”
Slimaz said he decided to stop until he got something to give them as an appreciation and denied that his YouTube account was making money.
“Our YouTube account was yet to be monetised and it is on a separate account. We had no plans of getting money from there. I acquired my equipment from the money I got from shooting videos of other artists and corporate events that is where I got money to buy equipment,” he said.
It is also alleged that he burnt the “Tunga” attire to fix members of the cast who had hoped that the series would continue.
“I did not burn the regalia to fix the cast as they are purporting, but it was because of the condition which came with the storing of the regalia in at the house.”
“They were now smelly, torn, and old.”
“From 2016 the regalia used to be stored in the office and when I changed the office I took the regalia to my house be cause it was smelling badly, even after laundry so I decided to burn it. I also sent the video burning it, that is when they started shouting at me,” he explained.
Slimaz confirmed that he dissolved the WhatsApp group because he could not stand the actors’ behaviour as they were no longer professional.
“They were shouting and scolding me and this broke my heart considering that I groomed some of them to be famous right now.”
He later promised “Tunga” fans that it will be back soon after everything had been sorted out.
‘“Tunga’ is my brand and brainchild. I wrote up to season 20 so we can expect it to be back again after settling payment issues. When it comes to ‘Tunga ‘I will take those guys back if they are still available,” he said.
Meanwhile, actors shared their stories called for Slimaz to be honest and professional.
Takura Kachambwa who acted as the main actor in “Tunga” expressed his disappointment with the way the production was being handled without any explanation from the producer.
“I am very bitter, I do not want to lie, it’s very painful,” he said.
“Slimaz wasted our time about three to four years working for nothing. ZBC TV aired seven seasons and there were also two seasons on YouTube and we did not get anything from that.”
“He gave some US$20 and some were given Z$70 which is very selfish. Whenever we asked for our money he would say you are now becoming big-headed and would kill the character in the drama, that is why some of the characters would disappear from the drama, for example, Mr Museve and Mbuya Cherere.”
“The other problem with Slimaz was that if you were working under his production ,he would not allow you to work with other productions.”
Kachambwa said Slimaz took advantage of them because they were still new in the industry.
“He was offered Zimdollar payment and he turned down the offer saying he couldn’t take it.”
“I told him to go and get that local currency and we start from there,” he said.
Cliff Taruvinga who acted as Tonderai in the drama said he left “Tunga” after realising that he was being manipulated by Slimaz.
“I started acting in ‘Tunga’ in season three and I left it during season six. I signed contracts for all the seasons that I did and did not receive any money.”
“I left ‘Tunga’ because I felt used since I was doing a top soapie in Zimbabwe, yet we were not given anything. We had one grievance as the crew which was non-payment,” he said.
Tinotenda Kuimba who acted as Jekenje shared the same sentiments, adding that Slimaz gave them empty promises as evidenced by not giving them their agreed payments.
“We used to work day and night and we would not sleep at night as we were told to pray for the production to be successful.”
“Slimaz promised us cars once the production was paid and up to now we are still waiting for that promise.”
“Anyone who would ask for the payment was kicked out from the production.
“When we then asked for our money as a group he said the money he got was not enough for them to get paid at once, so he had to pay people in batches but I did not get the money up to now,” he said.
Penelope Chadenga who was Tambu in “Tunga” said she felt betrayed as Slimaz did not give her a concrete explanation as to what was happening.
“I worked with Slimaz from August 2016 when we did the project ‘Tunga’ till 2020. In 2021 we started working on ‘Tindike’ and of all these years I only got paid Z$80which came via EcoCash for ‘Tunga’. He would promise to pay us later even though somehow, I knew we were not going to get our money. All I wanted was transparency and a clear reason why he ended the production when it was in its prime and he put the blame on us for not being committed, yet we worked for him for almost five years,” she said.
Grivies Chengeta who acted as Mudanhi said they were abandoned by Slimaz after they had a misunderstanding over payments.
“Slimaz is a one-man band, everything is centralised on him so his production lacked transparency. He is someone who manipulates people by pretending to make them popular while at the end of the day, you won’t get anything.
“The creation of a YouTube account also triggered a fight between the cast and the producer because people were now demanding their share from it. That is when he sent a video burning our regalia and also dissolved the WhatsApp group,” he said.