The Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) has decided to postpone National Executive Committee Elections that were scheduled to be held this past Thursday (August 2, 2007) at the Gaborone City Council. Only nine of the BOMU members who were present at the gathering felt the elections should proceed with an overwhelming majority of the membership against the elections. Prior to this meeting, the BOMU membership had also postponed the elections of their Annual General Meeting which was held on July 12, 2007. The reasons given were that candidates for the various NEC positions had not been given sufficient time to campaign. The BOMU constitution dictates that elections have to be held during the annual general meeting.
At this last meeting, the upcoming music awards, booked for February 2008, were cited as a reason for the postponement. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard, BOMU Secretary General, Nkopolang Tlhomelang, confirmed that negotiations for sponsorship of the union’s music awards by Mascom Botswana were now at an advanced stage and introducing a new committee at such a crucial time might prove detrimental. Other reasons for the postponement of the elections are the obvious need for an elections officer to oversee the electoral process and the need to involve not only musicians in Gaborone but rather throughout Botswana.
The BOMU executive committee consists of The President, Vice President, Treasurer, Events Manager, Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General, Public Relations Manager and three additional members. Despite these numerous positions, only the Public Relations and Vice President positions were to be contested. Nine other executive committee members were to go for the elections unopposed.
In other developments, Tlhomelang revealed that Botswana’s artists in their various cadres held a copyright meeting in December last year (2006). The meeting is said to have formed a task force, which was to define the different arts and how they should benefit from copyright royalties. These definitions were to be appended to a Memorandum of Articles that was then submitted to the Registrar of Companies. Some sources who insisted on anonymity, however, revealed that other artists, such as writers and painters, were unable to submit their definitions. The Memorandum of Articles now states only how musicians would benefit because they were the only cadre of the arts who were able to conclude the assignment. The same sources were quick to point out that the registrar of companies had accepted the memorandum of articles saying that musicians cannot be delayed for the sake of those unable to conclude the exercise within a reasonable time. The memorandum is said to be sitting with the law firm of Adams and Adams where it awaits to be refined.
This delay, however, poses a new challenge. Because Botswana now has a Copyright Act, structures defining how the due monies must be collected have to be setup. Both the artists and government stakeholders have agreed a collective management of the process is the best way to go. This means a board of directors representing the different stakeholders will be setup once the Memorandum of Articles currently being reviewed by Adams and Adams is completed.
Despite repeated statements that all is well at BOMU, some local papers carried stories earlier in the week, before the BOMU AGM, saying some members were concerned about the use of funds donated to the Union. They wanted specific spending details of the Union’s Executive Committee. The newspapers hinted that tensions were high at BOMU due to lack of explanations. Members of the BOMU Executive Committee have simply written these reports off as baseless rumours, saying the Union has a strict 12-month budget and none of the members attending the AGM were in doubt as to its dispensation.
Reports of disgruntled members are not new to BOMU. Last year the Union held music awards for the first time and soon after the awards, the Executive Committee’s Treasurer, Alfredo Mosimanegape, wrote the awards off as corrupt and unfair. In published statements, the Treasurer alleged that artists whose supporters were at the time using the Orange Mobile Service were cheated because votes could only be made via services provided only by Mascom; in other words, only Mascom subscribers could vote. The Union’s Secretary General has, however, denied the corruption charges. According to him, a panel of judges influenced 60 percent of the process while voters influenced only forty percent.
The Union’s Executive Committee recently approached the Department of Youth and Culture and it is alleged an agreement was reached through which qualified auditors would be provided to BOMU free of charge. Still on the awards, Tlhomelang says they have now forged an agreement with Mascom to sponsor the event. The process is apparently so advanced that both parties are now working on a logo that incorporates both their organizations. Tlhomelang revealed negotiations for the rights to broadcast the awards are currently being held by Botswana Television, adding that the only problem with the negotiations is convincing the national broadcaster to pay for the rights to broadcast. Tlhomelang, however, is optimistic they will reach a mutually beneficial relationship with Botswana Television.