Did the Mandela movie ‘sustain’ 12,000 jobs over two years? The claim is false

Comments 3

South Africa’s National Empowerment Fund says that 12,000 jobs were “sustained” over two years during the production of the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. But the claim is false.

With a budget of $35-million, it has been described as the most expensive South African film ever made. In its opening week in South Africa, despite some controversy over its historical accuracy, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom quickly became the country’s highest grossing movie.

And, according to both the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), a statutory body established to support and promote black economic empowerment, and South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry the film “created” and “sustained” 12,000 jobs over the two years it took to make.

But what sorts of jobs were created, how long were the contracts for and what salaries were paid? A reader asked Africa Check to investigate.

The claims

NEF chief executive, Philisiwe Mthethwa, has been quoted as saying that “[a] total of 12,000 jobs were sustained over a period of two years during production of the film”. According to Mthethwa, the NEF approved a loan of R50-million (about $4.8-million) for the film “because the commercial merits of the [loan] application were as compelling as the patriotic and heritage value of the story”.

The Department of Trade and Industry, which backed the film “to the amount of R60-million (about $5.8-million), in terms of a highly competitive rebate system”, also claimed it had created 12,000 jobs. “[T]he beauty of this job-creation exercise was that all these jobs were transferred from highly-skilled international practitioners to local people,” the department stated in a press release.

It also tweeted that  “[t]he production of ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ has created 12,000 local jobs” and attributed the claim to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

11,000 extras worked just two days each

In response to questions, Moemise Motsepe,a spokesman for the NEF, provided Africa Check with a copy of a letter from Robert Naidoo, one of the film’s co-producers.

Dated 9 December 2013, it stated that 11,721 South Africans were employed during the production of the film. Of that number, 668 crew members were employed for an average period of 30 weeks at a gross cost of R50,586,051. On average, each person therefore received a total of R75,728.

Another 131 people, described as “cast members”,  were employed for an average of 18 weeks at a cost of R5,371,226. That works out to an average payment of R41,002 per person.

A further 10,922 people were employed as extras with an average period of employment of two days at a gross cost of R4,790,245. This is an average of R439 per person.

Most jobs were ‘temporary’

Naidoo added that “[t]hese figures are direct employment figures and do not include indirect jobs via Supplier Agreements…[an average] of 20 catering staff supplied by the catering company [were] not included as we paid the Catering Company and they in turn paid the catering staff”. He said the same was true of other services used during the production.

Figures provided to Africa Check by the Department of Trade and Industry of the number of people employed during the making of the film differed slightly from those provided by Naidoo to the NEF.

According to the department, 12,268 people were employed in various capacities during the making of the film including 11,844 “extras”, 130 “cast”, 249 “crew”, 28 “creative personnel” and 17 people from a “special purpose vehicle company”.

The department conceded, in response to Africa Check’s questions, that most of the jobs were “temporary”.

Conclusion – The film did not ‘sustain’ 12,000 jobs over two years

The National Empowerment Fund’s claim that the film sustained 12,000 jobs over a two year period was false. Nearly 11,000 of those employed were employed for just two days each and paid around R439.

And the Department of Trade and Industry’s claim in a press statement and a tweet that 12,000 jobs were “created” – without any qualification or explanation that the bulk of the jobs were temporary – was misleading and disingenuous.

Edited by Julian Rademeyer

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Comment on this report

Comments 3
  1. By Tshiamo

    I am glad you debunked this one. I work in a government funded institution and have great issue with how the stats we provide can somehow get distorted and exploited to achieve certain goals.

    Whilst they may have conceded that jobs were not ‘sustained’ to Africa Check, is there anything that can be done to ensure that the same misinformation doesn’t find it’s way into the said departments’ quarterly and annual reports and eventually into the president’s own reports?

    This is the same misinformation that will be included in the State of the Nation address next year to rapturous applause in certain benches of parliament and on the campaign trail.

    Reply Report comment
  2. By Department of Trade and Industry, NEF, Long Walk to Freedom (Pty) Ltd

    The DTI, the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and Long Walk to Freedom (Pty) Ltd have collectively refuted the claim by Africa Check that the production of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom did not generate 12 000 jobs during its production a year ago.

    In its assessment, Africa Check has made bold to declare the assertion as “false”. Below are the facts in respect of the overallsocial impact arising from the production of the biopic:

    The direct jobs supported during production of the movie amount to 11,721. When the production company, Long Walk to Freedom (Pty) Ltd, applied for funding in 2012, the projected jobs to be created exceeded 12,000, while these were found to be 11,721 following reconciliation of the employment figures after post-production.

    None of the three entities have claimed that the jobs were permanent. The world over, the production of a film is a once-off project that does not provide permanent jobs. While it lives forever on screen and in public memory, the work that goes into producing a movie is by nature transient and time-bound.

    The DTI and the NEF’s funding of the production is in line with Government’s designation of film production as a key growth sector of the economy. South Africa has a growing reputation as a producer of award-winning local content. The two entities will continue to support South African filmmakers to take advantage of the country’s diverse and unique locations, as well as low production costs and remarkable local talent, as yet another contribution to economic growth and transformation.

    Of significance, the production allowed for filming industry skills transfer in various roles such as directing, casting, visual effects and specialist film treatments. There were learnerships and internships offered to ensure on-the-job training for South Africans. The production created economic benefits and skills for the local communities in the areas where the filming took place.

    The production presented an extensive opportunity for creating meaningful jobs in other related industries including carpentry and location set-construction, transport services, catering, costumes wardrobes, as well as hospitality.

    The heritage and historical content of the film is certain to profile South Africa globally and to contribute to growth in both the cultural industries and tourism as a sector.

    The film has garnered the following accolades to date:
    Audience Favourite Feature Award at the Aspen Filmfest in the United States,Three Golden Globe Nominations:Best Actor, Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and Two London Critics Circle Film Award Nominations: Supporting Actress of the Year and British Actress of the Year.

    Sidwell Moloantoa Medupe
    Chief Director: Media Liaison
    012-394- 1650 / 0794921774

    Moemise Motsepe
    (Manager: Marketing & Communications
    (083 533 4114 / 011-3058127)

    Nilesh Singh
    Long Walk To Freedom (Pty) Ltd

    Reply Report comment
    • By Africa Check

      We stand by the report. Your statement sidesteps the issues we raised.

      We fact-checked the claim by the NEF that 12,000 jobs were “sustained” over a two year period, which was clearly not the case.

      Furthermore, a “job” that lasts an average of two days – as was the case with the 10,922 extras that were hired – can hardly be called a job. The Oxford dictionary is pretty clear about the definition of a job: “A paid position of regular employment.”

      Similarly, the definition of the word “sustained” is also clear and refers to something that is “continuing for an extended period or without interruption”.

      The claims by the National Empowerment Fund and the department were misleading.

      Reply Report comment

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