It felt like d├®j├á vu a couple of weeks back when local promoters heard through the grapevine that the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture (MYSC) through BOT50 would be hosting yet another music festival without their input. BOT50 announced the free of charge ‘Youth Pop Up Bash’ recently which will feature a host of popular local artists and DJs in Lobatse this Saturday, April 30. This follows the 2015 Botswana Electronic Music Festival (BEMF) when BOT50 awarded the P3 million tender to a South African company under dubious circumstances. This time again, it seems, there were no transparent procurement processes followed to engage local promoters in organising the event. During a stakeholders meeting hosted by minister Thapelo Olopeng at Limkokwing University earlier this year the two parties agreed, albeit in principle, that the ministry would engage Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA) in all BOT50 entertainment activities.
“We feel like instead of providing us with the necessary platform to grow, the MYSC is instead competing with us,” said BEMP Executive Committee member, Mogomotsi Gaolape. “ As local promoters who know the ins and outs of the local industry we felt it would be only fitting for the ministry through the BOT50 Secretariat to engage us on issues of entertainment but that has not been the case. We were surprised to learn through Facebook that there would be a BOT50 music festival in Lobatse.” He said although they would have been happy to be engaged as a consortium to organise the event the least BOT50 could have done would have been to consult them. He said if there was proper consultation BEPA would have ensured the Lobatse festival does not coincide with the long planned 2nd annual Kgatleng Meat Festival also scheduled for this Saturday. “As promoters we have well planned calendar through which we avoid hosting big events at the same time in the same region because we understand we are competing for a very small market,” Gaolape told Arts & Society.
He said with more or less the same BOT50 line-up of artists also scheduled to perform at the meat festival it would be easier for people to ditch the P200 Kgatleng event for the free BOT50 Youth Pop Up Bash. “This will definitely kill the meat festival and leave the promoter counting losses.” BEPA’s Zenzele Hirschfield also voiced her disappointment with the manner in which BOT50 handles its business. She also found about the Pop Up festival through the grapevine. Hirschfield said following the consultative meeting they held with Olopeng the expectation was for MYSC to engage BEPA on all entertainment activities going forward. She said given the way BOT50 has been operating it would not be wise for any promoter to host a festival at least until after independence.
Another promoter, Gilbert PP Seagile, also said he would be suspending his services pending independence celebrations because he cannot compete with the government. He wondered why there were no open calls for tenders published to give everyone a chance to try their luck in organising the festival. Seagile also questioned the criteria employed to select the artists saying it always the same crop of artists that benefit from government sponsored events. “This has the potential to demoralize other artists and make them feel irrelevant.” He also criticized the idea of free festivals saying they will kill the credibility of artists. “Who would ever want to pay to see local artists if they keep seeing them perform at no entrance fee? What’s left would be for us to engage only international artists.” Phempheretlhe Pheto, Chairman of the National Organising Committee (entertainment) said he was not formally made aware of the Lobatse festival.
“I only learned about it on Facebook.” He said as the National Organising Committee they were under the impression that such events would be routed through them but that has not been the case. He told Arts & Society that as the committee responsible for national Independence celebrations their mandate has not yet been clearly defined despite their three year existence. Despite asking Arts & Society to call her back at a later stage BOT50 Coordinator Charity Kgotlafela did not take calls.