A TV drama about the Zuma years will cost a whopping R20 million an episode

Business Insider SA
Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla
  • A TV drama series about former president Jacob Zuma is set for South African screens by 2019.
  • It will be based on the bestseller The President's Keepers by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw.
  • It will have three seasons and over 20 episodes - costing an estimated R20 million each. 

Jacques Pauw explosive book The President’s Keepers will be turned into a TV-drama series with at least three seasons - costing an estimated R20 million per episode. 

The President’s Keepers details the extent of corruption under President Jacob Zuma and highlighted the various role players in the government and state security who played helped protect him. 

“It will be right up there with the best [series in the world],” producer Niel van Deventer told Business Insider South Africa. “Strong storyline, fantastic cast and technically rounded to the highest of international standards we can.” 

Van Deventer aims to release season one by mid-2019, with scouting and script writing currently taking place. 

“It will be a dramatized narrative series with the facts that were brought forward in the book as the base of our scripts and also a bit of the story from before the book and some of the aftermath,” he explains. 

“We will start in 1987 and end in 2019 or even beyond that, depending on what has happened by the time we reach development for season 3.” 

Van Deventer says they are currently in talks with every prominent broadcasting platform in the world, and several high name actors in South Africa have been approached to star in a large cast of between 50 and a 100.  

It will predominantly be shot in Cape Town, with a second unit shooting location footage all around the world.

“The cost will be predominantly carried by the broadcasters who will acquire the rights to air this show (on whichever platforms) and by some film incentives both here and overseas.” 

Van Deventer said he bought the rights to the book on the day it was published. 

“From the foreword, I instinctively knew it will be something that will translate to screen,” Van Deventer says. 

“When I started reading it I was bowled out by the magnitude of the facts and the story and realized that we will need more than two hours to tell this story. So I started working with the idea of making a drama series.” 

“I think if Jacob Zuma was still in power it would’ve been a lot harder for us to do it in South Africa,” Van Deventer says. 

“However I was always going to do it, I am now just super glad I can do it from here.” 

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