Years of hidden tensions in the Egyptian Actors’ Union (Nekabet El Mehan El Tatheeleya: Syndicate of Actors’ professions), started to surface during the days of the 25 January Revolution.
The events led to the resignation – or as union members claim, the removal – of Ashraf Zaki as head of the Actors’ Union. In the following hours and days, nine members of the board submitted their resignation, leaving the twelve member board with only two people: Sami Nawar and Khalil Morsi.
According to the rules of the union, when more than half of the board steps down, the board is silenced. With the board dismantled, Khalil Morsi took charge of general cleansing of the union from its accumulated corruption. “I oppose the ideology put in place by Ashraf Zaki,” Morsi told Ahram Online. “Now it is time to rebuild the union for the benefit of all its members.”
“Ashraf Zaki was a representative of the old government. He was very close to Anas el Fekky (former Minister of Communications and Information Technology) and his actions in the Actors’ union reflected el Fekky’s strategies in many ways,” a source told Ahram Online.
“We all knew that Zaki was a political figure, directly linked to former president Hosni Mubarak,” Morsi agrees. One of the repeated complaints of union members is based on the fact that the law of the syndicate was bent, depending on the personal benefits of its head and a few persons on the board, and the preferential standpoints were very obvious.
Morsi revealed that favouritism towards chosen members are among a long list of accusations against Zaki. “When one of the actors, considered as belonging to Zaki’s camp faced health problems, Zaki extended every support through the union's resources. This was not the case with many other members who found themselves in similar circumstances,” Morsi recalls.
“Zaki didn’t work for the syndicate or its people. Syndicate members are obliged to pay 2--5 per cent of their contracted income to the union and do not get much in return,” the source explained. “The syndicate can offer a maximum of LE 1500 ($150) yearly assistance to members needing help with their medical treatments. This figure was relative, depending on who was addressing Zaki for support.”
Some of the syndicate members stress that Zaki was supporting preferred union members by putting them on the map with work possibilities – many through his relations with Anas el Fekky, and influencing his choices – and understandably, these same actors were strong supporters of Zaki as head of the syndicate.
“During the revolution, Zaki was one of the faithful executives behind el Fekky’s ideas, such as pro-Mubarak demonstrations organised by a number of artists in front of the television building,” another source told Ahram Online. “He ordered a number of union administration workers to take part in those demonstrations.”
Today, the Actors’ Union is going through radical changes. “We are planning to arrange a General Assembly which will address all the members and lead to the creation of a new board,” Morsi told Ahram Online. Members of the union insist on holding fair elections for the new board very soon, as well as revising and possibly changing several points in the union regulations, for the general benefit of all the members.
Meetings are being held in the Actors’ Union club in order to proceed with the plan of changes, though it has not been set when the General Assembly will be organised.