The Botswana Electronic Music Festival has been the topic of discussion for the past week with music artists, promoters, and the public voicing their dissatisfaction on social media. If they had their way, the Botswana Electronic Music Festival (BEMF) would not see the light of day. Until recently, very little (if anything) was known about the planned independence music festival. But as news started seeping through that a South African company has been contracted at the cost of P3 million to organise the event, local promoters came out with guns blazing.
“We were informed by some sympathetic members of staff from the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture (MYSC) who were not happy with the way the project had been handled,” said one music promoter who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said they were surprised to hear that a Cape Town based company had been roped in to organise the event, meant to celebrate Botswana’s 49th Independence anniversary.
“We requested unsuccessfully to meet with the project coordinator,” he said. He said at the time they were told the minister, Thapelo Olopeng was in Congo on official business and upon his return they requested an audience with him. A delegation that included Seabelo Modibe, Shima Monageng, David Letshwiti, and Thapelo Pabalinga were sent to meet the minister. “He told us we had no experience of organising an electronic music event let alone an event of that magnitude.”
He said the minister went even further as to threaten the promoters that he would blacklist them. “It has been the norm that when hosting a festival that includes foreign acts the ratio has to be such that there are three local artists for every international artist on the line-up,” the disgruntled promoter told Lifestyle.
“Despite being a Motswana and one of the biggest brands in electronic music DJ Fresh is not even part of their line-up,” he said. Despite his dissatisfaction the promoter came to Olopeng’s defence saying the minister is being misinformed by those working with him. “He is being ill advised and as a result the minister is inheriting the bad blood that has existed between the government and the local music industry.” He said since taking office Olopeng has never engaged local artists and various stakeholders in the music industry. “He (Olopeng) should consider introducing grants for the arts as part of his youth empowerment programmes.
Shima Monageng from Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), was part of the delegation that met with the minister and he spoke to Lifestyle on his own personal capacity. “When something happens in your own backyard and you feel it is not being done right it is only natural to raise concerns,” he told Lifestyle. He said it raised eyebrows that local promoters had been overlooked in favour of a foreign company when they are capable of handling the job themselves. Monageng said they saw it fit to engage the minister responsible. He echoed the other promoter’s statement that Olopeng had expressed his reservations about the local promoters’ ability to organise such an event.
“We told him that, on the contrary, we are in fact capable of organising such an event. He told us it was already too late to change anything as plans had already been made.” He said the minister told them there had not been enough time for the bidding process to take place. “We indicated our displeasure to the minister and he assured us that due process would be followed in the future. He said government should always outsource such type events of events to local companies. He added that had things been done correctly even the advertising of the event would have been better. As a result of the festival various traditional pre-independence day events have been cancelled. Monageng said independence events should be about Batswana for Batswana celebrating post-independence achievements.
Minister Olopeng took to his facebook page to express his disappointment at the way the matter had been handled. He accused the promoters of insulting him on the social network. The minister also seemed to distance himself from the tender awarding process saying he was outside the country when the “transaction” took place. “When I got back I called both parties (my officers, BOT50 representatives, and music promoters) to a meeting,” Olopeng wrote. “We discussed this matter and agreed on a way forward because the contract for this one was already signed as I was told. So these guys still find it fit to insult me. It is fine; gatwe ‘kgosi thotobolo’ let them continue to insult me.”