The dispute between the SABC, production company MMSV and the fired Generation soapie actors, is being handled in an apartheid manner, renowned actor and playwright John Kani said on Tuesday.
"It carries the residue of an apartheid-style master, servant relationship," Kani said in Johannesburg.
He was speaking at a media briefing, attended by the 16 Generations actors who went on strike.
Kani said the dispute was "an embarrassment" for the democracy that people fought for during apartheid.
"I have stab wounds, I have evaded assassination and I spent time in detention -- and this is not what I fought for as an actor."
The actors, who were fired last week, formed the Generations Actors Guild (GAG), to improve salaries and working conditions of the 16 actors, as well as all actors at the SABC.
Many of them who were seated on stage at the Barney Simon theatre in Newtown became emotional during the briefing.
Actors who were fired and were members of GAG include Menzi Ngubane, who plays the character of ruthless businessman Sbusiso Dlomo, Nambitha Mpumlwana (Mawande), Patrick Shai (Patrick Tlaole), Sophie Ndaba (Queen Ndaba), Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth Mashaba), Winnie Ntshaba (Khetiwe Buthelezi) and Katlego Danke (Dineo Dlomo).
Kani's son, Atandwa, was also one of the Generations actors who were fired.
The actors claimed that the broadcaster and the production company MMSV had failed to deliver on promises it made to them during their strike last year.
They were reportedly promised three-year contracts which they had not received. They also wanted salary adjustments.
Kani said the public broadcaster and the production company could not "dispose the actors like diapers".
"They warm our living room every evening, they are dependent on the actors," said Kani.
He said the industry needed a change in mindset, and that actors should be regarded as academics and professionals.
"We are an academic entity. These people have studied to get where they are, they sell excellence."
As such, Kani said, actors were not employed but rather engaged with on a contractual basis.
"If we are in a contractual relationship and that contract is terminated, an engagement needs to take place."
He called upon the unions involved to take charge and fight for the betterment of the actors.
"We say to our unions, it is time to show our teeth and stand up. We need a plan of action."
Kani urged people who were considering auditioning for the vacant actor positions on Generations to avoid doing so.
"There are no vacancies at Generations, so don't go look for work there."