Johannesburg, 6 NOVEMBER 2008
The Hunger Protest called a pause to its campaign yesterday when renowned actor Sello Maake ka Ncube completed his promised 30 days without food by drinking diluted marula juice – a departure from the apple juice drunk as break-fast by all the previous protestors from the Hunger Coalition.
This rolling action began three months ago when filmmaker Michael Lee stopped eating to protest the SABC's lack of tranparency in its threatened local content cuts. He went 30 days without food before acceding to SASFED's request that he stop. At that point he handed over to several other media players who had already joined the protest: consultants Gwen Britz and Ingi Brough, young film industry entries Thabiso Mafane and Zamambo Tshabalala, and AFDA students Aluta Mlisana and Keitumetse Qhali. Only Tshabalala made her stated goal of 30 days - the rest having to stop short for medical and family reasons. When she finished, Sello took over.
Sello's month long fast was marked by extremely controversial statements about the state of culture in today's South Africa. Early in his fast he said that “in a twisted way” black culture was more supported under Apartheid than now, and that apparently ignited debates all the way up to the presidency.
"I received a call two weeks ago from the Department of Arts and Culture, who wanted to talk to me about my statements,” Sello said. “I'm still looking forward to that conversation.”
In his third week, Sello travelled on a three day trip to the Phillipines to do a live commercial for the South African government. “You have to drink twice as much water on the plane,” he said. “So you can imagine how many litres I was drinking by then.”
While both Lee and Zama drank their juice at press conferences at Atlas Studios, Sello drank his in the relatively sedate surroundings of the green room at the e-TV soapie Scandal!, where he was working a full day of scenes. On that show, Sello plays the lead character of Daniel Nyathi.
"About the end of my second week, the producers actually asked me to stop, because they were worried I was losing too much weight and it would show. But when I got back from Manila, they decided I was looking so good, they were glad I had done this.”
Like the protestors before him, Sello has experienced a personal as well as physical transformation. “I've not felt better in years. I am in tune with my body. I feel calm and clear. I have a new relationship with food. I understand now food is a privilege, and it can become an addiction. I understand now what people mean when they say there's actually enough food for everybody.”
Asked if he was disappointed that the coalition's basic demand – that the SABC open up its business operating plans to public scrutiny – has not been met, Sello smiled and said, “We're still watching. The protest is not over. For the moment let's call it a strategic retreat.”