In their efforts to save face and cover their tracks, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYESCD) is said to have called the late Soares Katumbela’s family pledging to release the funds they had promised to give him as part of sponsorship for his planned Francistown International Jazz Festival. The call is said to have been made on Friday, September 8 just as news had begun to break out that the legendary jazz promoter had passed on in an apparent suicide.
While there remains more questions than answers about the untimely demise of Katumbela, all fingers seem to point to MYESCD. Up until the day he allegedly committed suicide, Katumbela is said to have been making frequent visits to the MYESCD where he had been promised sponsorship money for the festival.
Despite weeks of planning and constant meetings with the relevant authorities, the ministry still could not guarantee sponsorship just two days before the festival (scheduled for September 9), Katumbela’s personal assistant (name withheld) told Lifestyle. She said ministry officials had in the days leading up to his alleged suicide sent Katumbela from pillar to post. “He needed the money to pay for the two South African artists Ringo Madlingozi and Selaelo Selota who were scheduled to perform at the festival,” she said.
She said although the organising team had resolved to do away with the SA artists owing to the lack of sponsorship Katumbela did not want to disappoint his patrons.
It was not until Friday, September 8, following news of his death that the ministry finally made good on their promise, she told Lifestyle. “They agreed to pay the money directly to the accounts of artists and service providers but following consultations with the Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA) and the family we resolved to cancel the festival,” she said. It was Katumbela’s second attempt at hosting the festival following a postponement earlier this year due to lack of sponsorship.
BEPA Vice President Shima Monageng has also expressed his concerns about the delays by potential sponsors in releasing funds.
“We are concerned as players in the music industry (artists and promoters) that some sponsors have the tendency of promising to sponsor only to take their time in releasing the money,” Monageng has said. He says it appears officers tasked with disbursing the funds do not understand and appreciate the urgency and pressure a promoter or artist is faced with when organizing an event. He says in most cases the funds are released late at the eleventh hour.
“This puts the organizers under undue pressure,” Monageng says, adding “A case in point is the sponsorship which the late Soares (Katumbela) was offered by MYESCD for the Francistown jazz festival. He told me and other friends that he had been practically camping at the offices of the Ministry trying to get the funds released but all in vain.”
He says as promoters they often wonder if the powers that be within the relevant government departments really appreciate the importance and potential of the entertainment industry.
“Soares as one of the most dedicated and finest promoters in Botswana had worked hard and planned well ahead for the jazz festival but only to be devastated by some sponsors playing cat and mouse at the last minute,” Monageng says.
He says as promoters they wonder why Katumbela would be subjected to such frustrations and humiliation when on the other hand he was to be bestowed with a Presidential Award as a way of acknowledging his contribution in the music industry. “As a promoter, friend and jazz lover I hope we have all learnt a lesson that artists and promoters’ proposals for assistance should be treated with the respect and urgency they deserve.”