Hunt for Mandela Opera man over missing cash

Pretoria – A manhunt for Mandela The Opera mastermind and producer Unathi Mtirara has been launched by several individuals, a government department and a legal firm over missing money paid to him which he did not pay over to the artists.

Mtirara has been missing for over a month. Former colleagues voiced suspicion he had skipped the country and used the Madiba name to start a new life abroad.

Mtirara has been accused of failing to pay artists featured in his Opera South Africa (OSA) productions, in a trend dating back to 2010.

Mtirara faces legal action over non-payment of cast

In the most recent scandal, the director is alleged to have used the services of over 100 cast and crew for his five-day production of the musical on Nelson Mandela last year.

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) gave him a R1 million grant, matching a similar amount generated by his own fundraising.

“But he disappeared with the money and left us in the lurch,” a production member said.

“All his and his wife’s numbers are off; his social media pages no longer exist.”

Mtirara also came under fire from the department. It too had unsuccessfully tried to get hold of him and had launched an investigation into possible breach of contract.

Read: Madiba opera cast still not paid

Coenraad Kukkuk Attorneys are also looking for Mtirara to recover money owed to their Pretoria client, Casta Diva Guesthouse, accumulated during 2014. Mtirara borrowed R15 000 cash from the guesthouse owner, and “…The second instruction is for the recovery of R440 000 for goods and services rendered.”

When Mtirara initially launched his production and brought it to the Pretoria State Theatre in 2014, he used the guesthouse to accommodate soloists and other VIPs, and in their month long stay they were also fed and provided with other services.

They have been trying to track him down. Attorneys spoke to his wife, who told them to “catch her if they can”.

Late last year they served letters of demand on the other six directors listed on the company data base.

“The shock of being linked with OSA hit us, because we walked away from that company in 2010,” renowned choirmaster Sidwell Mhlongo said on Wednesday.

There had been many fights between Mtirara and the colleagues he had founded OSA with during their year-long tenure as directors in 2010.

“He refused us access to funders, assured us of money and then failed to pay. Unathi secured massive funding but we had to run around to find ways to pay. We soon realised he was cheating us.”

Attempts to contact Mtirara on Wednesday proved futile.