Former artist manager Veli Dlamini has told how he lost his vehicle and medical aid cover after choreographer Somizi Mhlongo allegedly dumped him on a contract to produce a fitness DVD that he had invested more than R100,000 in.
Dlamini is the second person to publicly accuse Mhlongo this week of shortchanging him after budding producer Hastings Moeng also alleged Mhlongo had stolen his idea for cooking show Dinner at Somizi‘s.
Dlamini said he was speaking publicly for the first time about his matter after seeing Moeng’s story reported by Sowetan and realized he was not the only one who had been “robbed” by Mhlongo. He said he was now considering taking legal action.
Sowetan sent Mhlongo questions about Dlamini’s allegations via e-mail, SMS, and WhatsApp text but he failed to respond. When called for his side of the story, he simply said “f**k you”, before hanging up.
Dlamini said in 2012 he approached Mhlongo with the concept for a dance fitness DVD, which will take local dance moves such as kwaito and turn them into a uniquely South African dance fitness programme to be released and sold commercially.
Dlamini said in June 2013 he entered into a legal contract with Mhlongo to shoot the dance fitness DVD for which Mhlongo would provide creative direction and dance instruction services. The agreement, however, did not contain an exclusivity clause.
He said he had invested more than R100,000 in the project and had taken a R65,000 bank loan, which he later struggled to repay in 2015 after Mhlongo abandoned the project and instead produced a similar fitness DVD under a different name. In terms of the signed agreement, the DVD would be called Kwaitone Dance Fitness.
Dlamini said their fitness programme project was shot in 2013 and 2014 with him footing the bill for production costs, graphic design, the photo shoot, catering and flights and accommodation. Dlamini said he further paid a deposit for clinical trials at a Gauteng university to affirm that the programme would achieve the desired results.
Mhlongo released the Grind with Somizi in 2016, which Dlamini said was the same concept he had worked on but released under a different name.
“So, in 2014 we then reshot the DVD and started post-production as well as designing artwork for the DVD packaging. During the course of it Somizi would post on his Instagram promoting the DVD and CC [tag] me in some of his posts,” Dlamini said.
“The problem started when I would ask him about his contribution, which he would be irritated about… he then got a job to be a judge on Idols SA. For no apparent reason he started ignoring my calls and he blocked me on WhatsApp.”
Dlamini said he initially believed Mhlongo was too busy with Idols SA to focus on finishing their project.
“Then a friend informed me that Somizi was about to release a dance fitness DVD called Grind with Somizi and needless to say, I was shocked and angry,” Dlamini said. Sowetan has seen promo videos of the Kwaitone shoot with Mhlongo, including several Instagram posts where Mhlongo, wearing Kwaitone branded vests teased his followers about the upcoming DVD.
He said he contacted Mhlongo who dared him to meet in court before blocking his texts and calls.
Sowetan has seen several messages between Mhlongo and Dlamini which were exchanged during May 2016. In one of them Mhlongo told Dlamini: “Don’t ever talk to me directly. I m blocking u again.”
“I went through depression, I couldn’t even pay my medical aid and was forced to take my son to a public hospital. My car got repossessed as I was financially broke afterwards, switching off from life and only started recovering in 2017,” Dlamini said.
He said on the release of the Grind with Somizi DVD, he contacted his manager, Thato Matuka, who told him he was not aware of the matter and promised to “look into it”.
Matuka told Sowetan yesterday: “I can confirm Mr Veli did contact me. I indicated to him the matter he was bringing to my attention was way before my time with Somizi. I rightfully handed the matter to the client as I was not part of initial discussions and was not privy to the details thereof.”
Lawyer Ulrich Roux said to enjoy protection from the Copyright Act, the idea must be in a material form.
“So if the idea is shared, it would be recommended that the idea is shared in a material form, so in the form of a script, an essay or a brief plan outline. Further, all correspondence, notes and other forms of communication are recorded and kept safe in the event it is disputed that the idea did not originate with the creator,” Roux said.
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