It is the highest-grossing television show in the country, drawing in hundreds of thousands of rand in advertising per episode. With close to 8 million viewers, the Generations’ brand was valued at R500 million in 2007.

The soapie reaches an even wider audience as it is flighted in over 20 countries around the globe, in addition, brands pay large amounts of cash to partner with the show and have their products or brand names placed in the drama.

Armed with this knowledge, Sophie Ndaba, Menzi Ngubane, Nambitha Mpumlwana and ten other actors have today filed papers at the Johannesburg High Court to force the SABC to disclose all information related to commercial exploitation.

Bulelani Mzamo, the attorney who is representing the Generations applicants, says that in the past 21 years, no royalty fees have been paid to principal actors. In addition to selling the soapie to overseas broadcasters, these fees include repeats of the show, which the SABC has taken to doing of late with past episodes flighting during the week.

The SABC has acknowledged that it owes the actors royalties. City Press quotes an email sent from SABC to the actors’ lawyer in November last year. “It has been noted that the principal actors for Generations have not received exploitation royalties. This has been an oversight on behalf of the SABC. The script writers and production houses did receive the related exploitation royalties.”

We have been collecting information since October last year. This was when the strike commenced. The actors want to know what is going on – specifically how and where their images were exploited

Mzamo says the information is trickling in from the SABC but that the royalty figures are vague and the applicants are unable to break them down to see how much they are owed.

“We have been collecting information since October last year. This was when the strike commenced. The actors want to know what is going on, specifically how and where their images were exploited, in what form and what the outcomes (fees) were.”

Mzamo confirms that actors who have left the show are set to join the court bid as he has received several enquiries.

Although the SABC has stated that Mfundi Mvundla’s Morula Pictures has received royalties to date, this is disputed by Bongi Ndaba, head Generations’ scriptwriter.

Ndaba says Morula Pictures cannot pay the actors royalties as the company does not own the rights to or intellectual property for the popular soapie.

“It’s a mistake to mention Morula Pictures because the show is commissioned by the broadcaster,” said Ndaba.

According to industry sources, although Generations actors are among the best paid in the industry — their salaries range from an estimated R25 000 for a newcomer to about R80 000 for the longest standing actors – this is not on par with the millions that the soapie rakes in.

The award-winning soapie has been beset by off screen drama. Production was stopped last October for almost five weeks after actors went on a strike for better pay and amended contracts. The SABC had to intervene as Vundla would not renegotiate with the cast members. An agreement was finally reached with Morula Pictures and SABC vowing to review the contracts by March 2014.