THE family of music sensation Zahara, real name Bulelwa Mkutukana, has laid bare their broken hearts over what they term “trickery” perpetrated on them by her record company and management.
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The seven times SA Music Awards (Samas) nominee is contracted to TK Records, co-owned by Thembikosi “TK” Nciza and Sibusiso Leope, aka DJ Sbu.
The Mkutukana family, especially Zahara’s siblings Nomonde and Mbangedwa, claim a number of promises that were made to them by the record company have not been fulfilled.
They allege their sister is being treated with disdain by her record company.
They say, among other things, that she is not in control of her finances, still stays in Nciza’s home, where she is allegedly treated like a servant, after being promised a house and she sometimes gets so desperate for money that she has to ask her 55-year-old mom for cash for airtime.
Two independent sources, who formerly worked closely with TS Records, confirm that Zahara is often made to perform household chores at the Nciza home.
“What they are doing to that girl is sad. That it involves Nhlanhla (Nciza’s musician wife) is even worse,” said one source.
The sisters claim that whenever Nciza visits the family, he excludes them and speaks only to their parents who are “functionally illiterate”.
He exploits, they allege, their parent’s lack of understanding of the dynamics of the the music industry and Zahara’s contractual issues in particular.
They say the record label bosses haven’t delivered on any of their promises. But they lump all the blame on Nciza, because they say he has visited their home twice and is the liaison between the family and the stable.
“He’s deceiving our parents because he knows they are old and not educated.
“He promised to buy a house for Zahara in Joburg, buy my parents a farm and buy two cars for Spinach (Zahara’s other stage name) – one to use in Joburg and the other when she is in the Eastern Cape.
“He also promised to build a wall around our family home as he says he is concerned about our sister’s safety when she is at home.
“He also promised my parents he would build proper back rooms with ablution facilities, where currently there is an old shack, and pave the yard.
“None of these things have happened,” the sisters fume.
They say they believe their baby sister’s debut album Loliwe has been such a success that she deserves to be staying at a place of her own by now.
Both Nciza and Leope, who also anchors SABC1′s Friends Like These, ignored all attempts to solicit comment from them.
After several attempts to reach them by phone and text message, Sunday World travelled to the Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni, where Zahara was performing on Friday night.
Nciza was present at the event but ignored all attempts by this reporter for an interview in the foyer. The reporter was then barred entry into the event hall. The sisters also say that whenever Zahara flies into East London to visit her home village of Phumlani, her bosses never book a car for her.
They further allege that while Nciza and Leope have bought themselves new cars since Loliwe became a hit, Zahara is still dependent on public transport when at home.
“Before I bought my car, I used to ask my friends to pick her up from the airport,” says Nomonde.
“She doesn’t even know what her contract entails as she says she has no copy of the agreement.
“I don’t even know if she has a bank account of her own.”
The modest family home looks spanking new after it got a fresh coat of paint just before the Christmas holidays. But the sisters maintain this was their parents’ efforts.
“All Zahara has helped with was to fit a kitchen and wardrobe cabinets in the house,” they say.
The figures of Zahara’s music sales will become clearer by month-end, when the Recording Industry of South Africa (Risa) releases official numbers.
It is expected she has sold more than 50000 units since her album was released in August last year.
But sales and performance royalties for last October and March this year have been released by the SA Music Rights Organisation and she ought to have something respectable to show for her hard work.
Moreover, Zahara has been a draw-card for outdoor music performance and her infectious popularity has catapulted her into the A-list of live music performers.
TS Management is understood to charge anything between R70000 and R90000 for her services and she headlined espAfrika’s world-renowned Cape Town International Jazz Festival last month.