Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA) Vice President, Shima Monageng has expressed his frustrations over the lack of support from government. Monageng’s words come just a couple of days after the Re Batswana Ensemble were said to be stranded in Europe. The group, consisting of top Jazz musicians, flew to Europe a week ago to perform at various events that included the Botswana Independence celebrations hosted by the Botswana Swedish Ambassadorial office. Some of the group members could not make the trip due to lack of funds despite almost a year of rehearsals and preparations.
BEPA were also recently at loggerheads with the Minister of Youth Sport and Culture Thapelo Olopeng, over his ministry’s decision to contract a South Africa company to organise the 49th Botswana Independence Day music festival. Monageng who has been in the music industry for over two decades now says besides doing it as a business, part of their responsibilities is to help local artists grow.
“For us as promoters, musicians, and entertainers to grow we need opportunities that open up locally to be of benefit to us as the locals,” Monageng told Lifestyle. He said there seems to be no appreciation by the government for what BEPA does. “When there are entertainment events sponsored by government they are either organised by the government departments themselves or outsourced to foreign companies. We always get overlooked.” He touched on the burning issue of Botswana Electronic Music Festival (BEMP) outsourced to a South African company by MYSC through Bots50. “This is a typical example of the lack of appreciation the government has for locals,” Monageng said, adding “Now it has resulted in millions of funds meant for local independence celebrations being paid to outsiders. I would understand if this happened 20 years ago when maybe we were not ready.”
He said over the past decade local promoters have shown beyond reasonable doubt they are more than capable of putting together the biggest of events. “All we need are funds. For P3 million locals would have done far much better than what we saw with BEMP. We know what works for Batswana and electronic music would never have appealed to the majority of local music lovers.”
He told Lifestyle that streaming the event live across the country was technically a non-starter. “It shows how little the organisers knew about Botswana.” He said celebrations such as the 49th and next year’s 50th anniversary are a great opportunity to introspect on the progress made as Batswana. Monageng said contrary to what some may believe, they did not encourage Batswana to boycott the BEMP. “We are happy that the public adhered to our call to attend the festival anyway.” He said both the government and corporate sector seem to direct most of their sponsorship towards sporting events at the expense of performing arts. He cited SA’s Macufe Festival, the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, and Cape Town Jazz Festival as proof of how big events can grow with all the necessary support. He said the SA government injects money into the festivals because they appreciate the value of music.
Monageng said the business brought about by the three festivals and others reflects on the country’s GDP. “I attended the Joy of Jazz Festival recently and it was a huge success,” he said. “The festival had just 1000 people when it first started just 17 years back but now they boast over 30 000 spectators. The Cape Town Jazz Festival is the biggest music festival in Africa and the third biggest in the world. This would not have been possible without government support.” Some local artists and BEPA President, Zenzele Hirschfeld, left for the US on Thursday where the artists have been nominated in various categories for the African Musik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA). Monageng told Lifestyle the artists did not receive the necessary support from government. The nominated artists are Puna Gabasiane, Zeus, Vee Mampeezy, and Samantha Mogwe.
The BEPA VP said a traditional music group was also invited to perform alongside the artists but that could not happen due to lack of support. “The artists have also had to go without their crews. Vee has had to leave his dancers behind,” he said. He said an affiliation fee of US$58,000 was also required from the organisers but the government has failed to help honour the request. “Again the government did not appreciate the benefits of being affiliated to such an influential organisation. Monageng said President Ian Khama was also expected to get an award for Transformational Leadership following recommendation by BEPA. He said moving forward they as BEPA will continue to seek audience with the relevant authorities to ask for sufficient support for the entertainment industry and ensure the 50th independence anniversary celebrations are conducted accordingly as far as entertainment is concerned.