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Friday, September 27, 2013


(Mbongeni Ngema. Pic by Val Adamson) 
Leading South African arts practitioner Mbongeni Ngema divulges far-reaching plans to endorse the international Zulu brand with the unveiling of a new dedicated TV channel.

Ngema has announced that his company, Committed Artists Records and Films, is to unveil a new Zulu TV channel on September 30 2013 at KZN Music House in Durban. The channel will be flighted throughout sub-Saharan Africa via a new satellite that has been launched into space by SENTECH.

“Due to the vast reach of the channel, we will be broadcasting predominantly in English, while we will of course carry a healthy contingent of Zulu programmes as well,” says Ngema. “We plan to devote a lot of our broadcast material to local content, with a strong focus on material relating to KwaZulu-Natal. Demographically the Province has a rich cultural mix, given its population of Zulu-speakers, Indian communities and whites. To ensure a degree of international coverage, we will also be linking up with Voice of America and other networks.”

Besides programming music, talk shows and news items, Ngema says his plans for Zulu TV also include the introduction of television drama productions, again focusing largely on the work of local artists.

“There is a wealth of material to draw from here, when one looks back on 30 years of working in the theatre. Besides creating new material, there is the strong feasibility of adapting established stage pieces for television. We are in touch with the Market Theatre management, and also with other leading South African theatre companies, as well as AFDA. We plan to engage with as many young actors, directors, script writers and technicians in the industry as possible, and look forward to welcoming them at our launch on 30 September.”

Plans for KwaZulu-Natal’s Zulu TV station accord well with Ngema’s objectives of developing a vibrant cultural work environment in the province. In this regard, the new television network initiative can be seen as a positive step forward following the opening seven years ago of the Durban-based KZN Music House, another Ngema-led initiative, run in association with the KZN Departments of Economic Development and Tourism, and Arts and Culture.

Primarily an entertainment channel, Zulu TV aims to screen high quality programmes in High Definition format, with a strong emphasis on local productions. In addition to music programmes, content will include coverage of heritage, tourism, arts and culture, lifestyle, magazines programmes, as well as musical theatre, drama, sitcoms, movies, short films, documentaries, religion and current affairs, with internet link up through social networking.

“Our core target market will be primarily language and geographically based – that is the whole of South Africa. We are also targeting the entire Southern African region, where a vast number of both Nguni and non Nguni based languages are spoken,” says Ngema.

“It goes without saying that since the founders of the Channel have knowledge of and experience in diverse cultures such as Zulu, Francophone, Swahili, Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Sotho, the channel will therefore have a Sub-Saharan and Regional appeal. English subtitling will be used where necessary to make programmes accessible to all language groups, as well as to open up opportunities for international licensing.”

Ngema says the choice of Zulu TV as a brand name is informed by the fact that this (Zulu brand) has evolved to become one of the best known brands internationally and locally along the same lines as brands like Coca Cola and Nike, etc.

“It is interesting that in spite of the potential of the Zulu brand there has not been a dedicated communication of this brand to date which has assumed international stature and popularity. The Zulu TV channel will provide an opportunity to communicate the ‘Africanness’ of our people using the Zulu Brand, not as a tribal point but rather as a microcosm of the people of Africa’s ethos and culture, as well African people in the diaspora.”

Ngema points out that as Zulu can be traced nowhere else than in Africa, it forms an integral part of the African message. As an attestation of the brand quality and potency of Zulu, many books have been written locally and perhaps even more interestingly, internationally.

Apart from this being a commercial project, the new channel will also provide an opportunity to communicate government programmes and activities. Discussions are afoot with the KZN Provincial Government who are keen to buy space on the channel for their service delivery programmes, communication and adverts.

This will be a new business model for government communication to be adopted by all nine provinces. In addition to the foregoing, this project will create an estimated 500 to a 1000 jobs in its first year alone.

“Our objectives underpinning the launch of Zulu TV will include, among others, seeking to reflect the way of life of the people of the Sub Sahara Region and Africa in general,” says Ngema. “We aim to create an omnipotent brand, available to the market at its choice plug points. Another prime objective is to make programmes that have international legs.”

“Other important priorities will be to provide opportunities for the video and film industry in KwaZulu-Natal to contribute with programming, and to nurture emerging video and filmmakers in the province, linking the two entities up, wherever possible. To this end we will be hosting an Imbizo for writers, directors, producers and productions house which will be held during the Zulu TV media launch on September 30 at 16h00 in Durban."

Interested parties may contact Thandekile Mqadi at Committed Artists by calling 031 309 6164 or e-mailing