Safety issues kill Soweto jazz festival

Deborah Cox
Image: Randy Shropshire/Getty Images

The first Soweto International Jazz Festival that was schedule to take place this past weekend at the Soweto Theatre was cancelled because organisers failed to meet safety compliance regulations.

The four-day event boasted an impressive line-up of local and international stars such as Deborah Cox, Bob James, Charlie Wilson, The Neville Brothers, Rico Love and Gordon Chambers, who were already in the country. Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Lady Zamar, Zamajobe and Nasty C were among the local artists.

According to Johannesburg City, the decision that the festival cannot go ahead due to non-compliance safety issues was taken on Thursday.

The event was organised by International Arts Solutions (IAC), an international company that's been staging the New Orleans Jazz Festival for years.

In a statement released by the organisers, the event was cancelled due to logistical delays and permission needed from the Joint Operations Committee from Joburg City.

Spokesman of the City of Johannesburg, Nthatisi Modingoane, said the organiser failed to get categorisation of the event from the SAPS on time.

"When hosting an event, you approach SAPS for categorisation 30 days before the event. But the organisers of this show did that eight days before the event, which was too late," Modingoane said.

"The categorisation is important because it determines what kind of logistics you will require in terms of ablution facilities, types of security and other facilities like emergency services."

He said the city decided to tighten the gathering regulations following the Ellis Park stampede incident.

"This is done for the safety of the people. You have to go through those processes to avoid getting people injured. If you do not meet those requirements, you can't host the event," he said.

IAC general manager Nolan Baynes said: "We have always been committed to ensure that all our events are safe and we remain committed to ensure we always comply with all by-laws and city regulations. "

Baynes said the IAC had spent about R15-million for the festival, which was set to employ 150 local musicians and 300 local suppliers. He said the company had invested R4.5-million in security, cleaning staff, fencing staff, stage, sound and catering among others.

Cox said in a statement: "I am extremely disheartened... I was looking forward to performing for the amazing people of Soweto and Jozi." Baynes said they had consulted their attorneys and believed they had legal grounds to pursue the matter further.

South African Music Promoters Association chairman China Mpololo said it was unacceptable for an event to be cancelled for lack of a compliance permit. He said this put other music promoters and artists in a bad light.

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