Idols SA judge and Metro FM presenter Somizi Mhlongo‘s popular reality show Dinner at Somizi‘s is marred by allegations of intellectual property theft after a man, who claims the idea as his, was excluded.
Hastings Moeng, 31, says he is the brains behind the popular DSTV’s 1Magic TV show which centres around Mhlongo hosting celebrity guests for dinner at his home.
Moeng’s lawyer Mabu Marweshe confirmed to Sowetan that his client is demanding an apology for his intellectual property being used without his consent. He also wants to know how much the show has made so that he can negotiate his share of royalties and to be acknowledged going forward.
“I can confirm that we act on behalf of Hastings Moeng and we gave issued a letter of demand to Multichoice. I cannot however divulge much … but my client is seeking recognition for his idea,” Marweshe said.
Sowetan has learnt that Moeng, who is also in the entertainment industry, had sent an email to Mhlongo in July 2014 proposing a light-hearted TV show to be titled ‘Dinner kwa Somizi’, a Zulu equivalent of the current title.
In the email which Sowetan has seen, dated July 28, 2014, sent by Moeng to Mhlongo and his then close associate Themba Zuma, Moeng proposes the show and states that he has had this idea since 2010.
“Please receive this [as] an expression of interest to partner up with you on the idea. I’ve not done a show before, though I am confident that between us we have a database of the right people to bring this to life,” wrote Moeng.
Moeng also unpacked in his letter that ‘Dinner kwa Somizi’ would be a weekly 13-part show that would see Mhlongo chatting “to fellow entertainers over dinner”.
Dinner at Somizi’s has since hosted actress Rami Chuene and TV personality Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, among others since it began in July.
“Each 24-minute-long episode captures the drama that goes into preparing each meal as Somizi and his guests sweat it up in the kitchen,” wrote Moeng in his proposal. He had proposed that the show be “quirky and light-hearted”.
Moneg also wrote that as “Somizi, famous for not mincing his words, asks each of his guests the questions on everyone’s mind that no one has ever dared to ask in a witty manner without offending them”.
The letter of demand sent to MultiChoice, including CEO Calvo Mawela, stated that after Moeng had met Mhlongo personally around June 2015, at Dainfern Square, northern Johannesburg, “an agreement was reached that the idea was commercially viable and should be pursued”.
Moeng then met with Legend Manqele, the executive producer of Dinner at Somizi’s in 2016 to discuss putting the show together and sent the synopsis of the show to him in September 2016, according to his letter to MultiChoice.
MultiChoice spokesperson Benedict Maaga said they were aware of Moeng’s allegations and they had reached out to him to discuss the matter further.
“When content is commissioned from producers, as in this case, MultiChoice obtains undertakings that all intellectual property rights in relation to the show have been cleared. We reached out to Mr Moeng a week ago to discuss the matter and we await his response,” Maaga said.
He added: “We are also engaging the show’s producer. This claim will not impact on the airing of the remaining episodes of the show.”
When approached for his side of the story yesterday, Mhlongo, after Sowetan had gone through the formalities, he said: “I’m not interested, bye”. He didn’t respond to subsequent text messages sent to his mobile number.
Manqele asked for questions to be sent via email as he said he needed to consult everyone involved in the show before responding to Moeng’s allegations.
“We are aware of this and have taken things through our legal team,” Manqele said.