SA supreme court rejects appeal over concert death
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) of South Africa has rejected an appeal by one of the companies held responsible for a scaffolding tower collapse that killed one person at a Linkin Park show in South Africa in 2012.
In 2017, nearly five years after the death of 32-year-old Florentina Popa, Cape Town magistrate Ingrid Arntsen ruled that Vertex Scaffolding, Bothma Signs and Hirt & Carter – which constructed two large scaffolding towers at Cape Town Stadium and hung an advertisement for Lucozade between them – had been negligent and could be “causally linked” to Popa’s death, while Big Concerts, the promoter of the show, was found not to be responsible.
Popa died of blunt-force trauma after the tower fell on her in strong winds before Linkin Park show’s at the 58,309-seat stadium on 7 November 2012.
Arntsen said the companies should have foreseen that even moderate winds could have blown it over. “[W]inds with speeds of up to 15 metres per second were eminently foreseeable in Cape Town, and the towers could have been designed and constructed in such a way as to withstand the winds that were recorded on the day of the concert,” she said at the time.
“There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law … on which a review might be founded”
“It would appear, then, from all the evidence, that while the wind did come up and create problems, there was no real fear on the part of anyone in authority at the concert that the towers would blow over.”
Durban-based Hirt & Carter, which produces billboards and digital advertising, took the inquest’s findings to the Western Cape High Court, which dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of appeal, which has upheld the high court’s ruling.
SCA judge Sulet Potterill, with four judges concurring, found that Arntsen “cannot be faulted for concluding that the death of the deceased was brought about by an act or omission that prima facie amounts to or involves an offence on the part of Hirt & Carter”, reports News24.
“It was premised on a finding of negligence on the part of Hirt & Carter. There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law by the magistrate of the kind on which a review might be founded. Indeed, I can find no error at all.”
Hirt & Carter’s appeal argued that the magistrate had erred when she found that it had omitted to supervise and manage the erection of the towers, which it said was the responsibility of a subcontractor (Bothma Signs).
In her judgment, Potterill disagreed, saying Arntsen “was correctly unpersuaded that the subcontracting of Bothma Signs and Vertex, against the facts of the case, could be relied on to exonerate Hirt & Carter.”
A further 19 people were injured in the accident, with 12 requiring hospitalisation.
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South Africa’s largest indoor venue closes
The 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome, South Africa’s largest indoor venue, is closing to events and will become a giant used car dealership after owner Sasol Pension Fund sold the building to WeBuyCars.
RX Venue Management, which operated the Johannesburg venue for 20 years, said the venue was unable to operate during the country’s Covid-19 lockdowns, adding that its permanent loss will hit the live industry at a critical time.
Carol Weaving, MD of RX Africa, said: “This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry. The Ticketpro Dome has been home to many international concerts and events in South Africa, and this will undoubtedly leave a huge void.
“The constant changes and severity of the Covid-19 restrictions have wreaked havoc amongst our stakeholders and across the supply chain. This has meant we were unable to change the outcome of Sasol Pension Fund’s decision to sell the venue due to a force majeure. We want to thank all our customers, suppliers, and partners for their support over the past 20 years.”
“This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry.”
Artists that performed at the Dome include Katy Perry, Pink, Lauren Hill, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Pharrell Williams, and Michael Bublé.
In a statement on Facebook, leading South African promoter Big Concerts said: “We are saddened by the news that the Dome will be closing their doors. Since 1998, we have promoted 186 shows at the Dome. To all our friends at the Ticketpro Dome, it’s been a pleasure working with you all, we will miss you terribly!”
The WeBuyCars showroom is expected to have room for 1,500 vehicles, making it one of the largest car showrooms in the world. Handover is expected on 7 September.
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Sara slams lack of regulation in South Africa
The South African Roadies Association (Sara) has hit out at the loose regulations governing live events production in South Africa, as it emerged no one has been held responsible for the death of a rigger over two years ago at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
Speaking to the Weekly SA Mirror of 4 June, Freddie Nyathela, president of Sara, describes the sector as a “free for all”, blaming the Department of Employment and Labour for dragging its feet on a proposed new framework for the technical events production and production services industry.
Lack of transformation in the industry is ultimately responsible for the death of Siyabonga Ngodze, the 36-year-old who suffered fatal injuries after falling in the set-up for the Mandela 100 event, which featured performances from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Ed Sheeran.
Though Ngodze’s mother has received compensation from his employer, production company Gearhouse SA, and the Department of Employment and Labour (R39,000 [US$2,900] and R35,000 [$2,600], respectively), Thembekile Ngonze says she has yet to see justice for her “beloved son”.
“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted”
“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted for the death of my son”, says the 56-year-old.
According to the Weekly SA Mirror, progress in resolving the case has been delayed by successive lockdowns in South Africa. However, a Department of Employment and Labour investigation found that Gearhouse SA had failed to comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
In addition to the death of Ngodze, the Mandela 100 event, held to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, was also marred by reports of widespread lootings and assaults, blamed by the venue, FNB Stadium, on the lack of police presence.
The concert raised billions of dollars for education, HIV prevention and anti-poverty initiatives in Africa.
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Unsung Heroes 2020: #feedourcrew
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 this month, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, starting with South Africa’s #feedourcrew.
Established just after lockdown in April 2020, #feedourcrew’s objective is to provide temporary support, through food vouchers, to technical and casual event crew personnel across South Africa. Founding members Tamsyn Strydom (MGG Productions), Kagiso Moima Wa Masimini (Black Motion Productions), Marcia Alves (We Are Boundless) and Daria Higgins (True North Events) wanted to assist the members of their teams who contribute tirelessly towards creating memorable events, but as freelance technical staff were unable to access any form of relief funds or grants.
Almost all 526 freelancers assisted to date are the sole breadwinners in their families and rely heavily on a normally robust industry for their livelihoods. That, however, changed when the strict lockdown rules were introduced in South Africa, leaving hundreds of crew members without any income.
#feedourcrew has raised ZAR344,564 (€18,684) and has paid out ZAR333,500 (€18,084), with 122 applicants still on the waiting list
To date, #feedourcrew has raised ZAR344,564 (€18,684) and has paid out ZAR333,500 (€18,084), with 122 applicants still on the waiting list for help. As the live industry begins to get back to business in SA, #feedourcrew has partnered with organisations such as the Kagiso Education Fund, which provides on-the-job stagehand training for students aged 18-30 through various industry partners. It also develops community arts space for young people, women, and people living with disabilities.
In August, #feedourcrew also gave birth to #flightcasemovement in an effort to unite members from the live events and technical production sectors. On behalf of those working in the business, #flightcasemovement hand-delivered a memorandum of demands to South Africa’s Department of Sports, Arts & Culture (DSAC) in response to the devastating effect that the government’s prohibition on gatherings has had on the live events industry.
Founded by Kagiso Moima Wa Masimini, Tamsyn Strydom, Aubrey Ndaba (Tech Forum), Sizwe Mokoena (Ugqozi Entertainment), and freelance production manager Lefa Tsiane, #flightcasemovement is providing the live events production community with a vehicle to lobby politicians and give a voice to the sector.
“It is not unusual for crews to work up to 36 hours in a row with no rest… we need to change that”
Among its early activities, the organisation was able to participate in and present the findings of a survey conducted by media group Sun Circle, examining the impact Covid-19 has had on the business and the people who depend upon it.
As a result, #flightcasemovement’s memorandum of demands to the government includes:
- The reopening of the live events industry at 70% capacity, following strict Covid-19 protocol in line with Event Safety Council-proposed guidelines.
- A specific ZAR2billlion (€108million) relief fund for businesses in the live events and technical production sector.
- Compulsory extended relief from financial institutes for businesses and crew members (covering such areas as rent/ bond repayments, school fees, car repayments, insurance/ medical), until the live events sector has recovered.
- Monetary assistance to the organisations that stepped in and assisted freelance technicians and casual workers, such as #feedourcrew.
- Relaxation of relief fund application requirements for freelance crew members.
- Recognition of the live events and technical production sector with different representation across the board and a seat at the DSAC table.
- A strategic, deliberate and sustainable plan on how to support the live events industry.
On the final point, #flightcasemovement is hoping DSAC will help it draw up guidelines for a sustainable plan to best support the industry and to start the process of regulation within the production business. “While we are one of the strictest industries worldwide in terms of health and safety, there is no regulation on the hours worked in South Africa and it is not unusual for crews to work up to 36 hours in a row with no rest,” states Lefa Tsiane. “We need to change that.”
South Africa: Nearly half of pros to leave the industry
Nearly half of the thousands of people working in live music in South Africa might quit the business for good, according to the country’s biggest-ever survey on the effects of 2020’s Covid-19 shutdown.
Some 47% of live music industry professionals, including artists, say they are at risk of being driven out of the industry altogether due to their inability to continue with “music-related activities” at present, reveals Impact Analysis: Live Music and its Venues and the South African economy during COVID-19, a report by the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO).
SACO commissioned the research in August to discover how the sector has been affected by the measures imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus. “It is important we understand how the various sectors of the industry have been affected and continue to be affected by the pandemic, as this empowers us to provide better insights to both policy makers and the industry,” said the organisation’s executive director, Unathi Lutshaba.
Among the study’s key findings are:
- A majority of respondents had previously been operating for more than five years, but the impact of Covid-19 has been devastating even on these established practitioners. Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19 and 25% indicated that they would not be able to continue with any elements of their business under lockdown
Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19
- Industry professionals have attempted to respond flexibly and with agility to the crisis, with 88% attempting various online music alternatives in a very short space of time. However many had to resort to more severe measures such as terminating short-term contracts (23%), retrenching employees (13%) or cutting employee salaries (18%). Only 6% of respondents could continue to pay all employees
- The predominantly informal and project-based nature of all music-related work means that many industry actors were unable or ineligible to apply for or secure any form of government relief, since all required extensive formal documentation. Only 7% reported that they had successfully applied for the various SMME [small, medium and micro enterprises] support mechanisms available, while 21% indicated that they had successful applied to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for funding. Without access to support, many have resorted to the sale of equipment and assets, and reliance on financial support from friends and family
- The participants also called for decentralisation of programmes, projects and infrastructure, with a focus on the local – including shifting funding away from large-scale events towards local music initiatives, venues and performance spaces
In response to the findings, the SACO report makes a number of recommendations, including launching a national ‘music desk’ specifically to work with the music industry and reducing licensing costs and red tape around the use of public space for Covid-secure performances.
“It is our hope that this report will contribute in some small way towards the industry and stakeholders from other industries who wish to participate assisting in the recovery,” adds Lutshaba.
SA’s recovery: “There’s still a lot of blood on the floor”
To say South Africa (SA) has had a tough time during the pandemic would be something of an understatement. The nation endured one of the earliest and strictest national lockdowns in the world, which saw a curfew enforced and the sale of alcohol and tobacco restricted.
Now though, things are looking up for SA. On the 20 September, the overnight curfew was reduced to 12–4 am and entertainment venues permitted to accommodate 50% capacity with limitations of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors – just in time for summer and, under normal circumstances, the live market’s busiest season.
As the market starts its recovery, IQ catches up with Theresho Selesho, CEO at Matchbox Live and the promoter behind some of SA’s most popular events and festivals including OppiKoppi (cap. 10,000), to discuss recovering, adapting and planning post-lockdown.
IQ: Lockdown must’ve been an incredibly tough time for businesses, how has Matchbox Live managed to survive?
TS: With the type of restrictions that we’ve had, it didn’t make any sense to do much. We couldn’t sell alcohol or tobacco up until the beginning of September, which is a crucial part of how most festivals generate income on sites and how they secure sponsorship.
It was more economical to just stay closed and just try to keep your business upright by cutting as many costs as possible. That was one way to survive this. There’s still a lot of blood on the floor. Some companies have closed down, some production companies have had to let a lot of people go.
What kind of support has the sector received from the government?
Only recently has our sector started organising itself to have real engagements with the arts and culture department. This required a lot of engagement amongst various players within the industry, which included venues, promoters, technical companies and the likes. There is a little bit of movement that is starting to happen but in terms of support and grants, that has started to slowly materialise. The administration behind this has been one of the biggest challenges for a sector that is not formally organised, as it should be.
Freelancers and musicians could apply for support but not the promoters who create those opportunities because there’s a very specific kind of support that is needed to make these things happen and keep the wheels turning. So that has also made this time very challenging. Promoters couldn’t rely on the government, they had to be gung-ho, have deep and frequent engagements with each other in order to better organise ourselves to make things happen, coming out of this thing.
“Promoters couldn’t rely on the government, they had to be gung-ho”
How have you adapted your events in line with the restrictions?
With the current restrictions it makes sense to do smaller, curated, daytime events. So with one of the venues that I co-own, in collaboration with another entertainment company, Homecoming Africa we came up with the concept for Fontein Brunches, where attendees can book tables of four or more, eat brunch, and listen to DJs and artists. We launched at the beginning of September, with events on both Saturdays and Sundays between 10 am and 6 pm. It’s a great day out.
Have you managed to make the events financially viable?
We have done all the Fontein Brunches on risk, without a sponsor, which is unheard of in our market. You rarely do an event without a brand partner here, it’s just not viable. But we believed in the concept enough to cost it so it made sense and now it’s starting to build traction and bear fruit. We’ve managed to sell out 80% of them.
“We’ve always had to be pretty self-sustainable so operating in these kinds of conditions is not really new”
Has the market got busier now restrictions have been eased?
Lots of daytime events and club shows have popped up now so we want to take ourselves out of the clutter of the people doing the same stuff in the city. We’re looking at other options. We just announced an event at Sun City Resort, which is like a mini city with multiple hotels and entertainment, for the end of November. People can book hotel packages and there’ll be pool parties, after-parties and live performances in different areas.
Is that business model of creating a ‘temporary venue’ and booking it up the way to go right now?
Definitely. We were looking at doing drive-in shows with the same model as Newcastle’s Virgin Money Unity Arena, where we set up a venue in a rugby or soccer field for two to four weeks in Johannesburg and then in Cape Town and get different promoters to do different shows. So I could bring an Alchemy [a festival series featuring international artists] experience, someone else can bring an electronic festival, and someone else could book a classic concert etc. That way everyone covers the same base costs and the suppliers know how to cost for that. It’s just a bit more viable for everybody, as well.
“It’s going to be a big rebuild. We’re going to have to all force ourselves to rebuild from whichever level that we started at”
Are you confident in the market’s ability to bounce back?
Being so removed in South Africa, we’ve always had to be pretty self-sustainable so operating in these kinds of conditions is not really new – aside from the obvious catastrophic health and economic factors. You can never just do a festival in South Africa and that’s all you do. We have very nimble and lean teams that we operate with, and everyone works on different things throughout the year.
Another bonus is our production costs which are a lot more manageable than Europe where you need a higher capacity for events to make financial sense. It’s 5-10 times cheaper to do the same production here than it is in the UK or in Europe as well. There are a lot more suppliers in the market now which speaks to the maturity and growth of the market. And we can negotiate a lot harder to make the event a lot more viable, as well.
“The confidence to bounce back also comes from the fans”
It’s still early days in SA’s recovery, are promoters cautious about booking for next year?
Yes, we have to be very calculated. Currently, we’re only planning per quarter. Many promoters haven’t committed to their typical dates for festivals next year. We need to look at the dynamics like how much money is in the market for people to go out to go to a big festival and big productions.
It’s going to be a big rebuild. I think we’re going to have to all force ourselves to rebuild from whichever level that we started at, so if it means we need to start with 500-capacity shows upwards, that’s what we’re going to do. Most of the big festivals happened this year; we also decided to take the OppiKoppi Festival online this year.
Are promoters confident about fans’ willingness to return to live events?
Yes, I would like to believe that there is a lot of confidence in the market. The confidence to bounce back also comes from the fans. People really, really want to go out and reconnect with other humans in good, safe spaces so that’s motivating. Regardless of sponsors, artists want to perform and the fans want to go out. It would have been a very different dynamic if people were very hesitant to go out because of financial constraints and health and safety issues.
Coronavirus claims South African promoters
Two popular South African concert promoters have died of Covid-19.
Thirty-five-year-old Pheko Kgengoe and Shonisani Lethole, 33, both passed away on 30 June after being admitted to hospitals in Johannesburg after contracting the coronavirus.
Lethole was known locally for his workshops connecting African artists with international opportunities. Siyabonga Mthembu, co-founder of Afro-jazz group the Brother Moves On, tells Music in Africa Lethole made an “immense” contribution to the South African music scene.
He comments: “Shoni introduced us to our first real manager, Adi Frost. His endeavoured to connect African artists. […] He introduced the new artists to the old-school players. Shoni respected and loved us all. He showed the kind of love for music that made him a big part of the Johannesburg live music scene.”
“I hear so many people saying the dearest things about Shoni now – his close friends in Johannesburg and his close-at-heart, far-away friends in Oslo, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles,” says Norwegian promoter and distributor Trond Torner, who worked with Lethole.
“Shoni respected and loved us all”
“And I feel I’m not alone when experiencing a deep vacuum from where Shoni would be. He felt like a brother to us all. Shoni’s name will be forever.”
Kgengoe’s career included spells at Universal Music and Sony Music, and he later established his own PR company, 4 the Love.
“He was very passionate and contributed a lot to the music industry. His death is a loss to the whole industry,” says local music PR specialist Thabisa Mogwathle. “It has not fully sunk in that he is gone. He was a friend, a brother and a business partner as we worked on various projects together.”
Authorities are investigating the circumstances of Lethole’s death at Tembisa Hospital, after he tweeted he had not eaten for 48 hours in the days leading up to his passing.
There has been a surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa in recent weeks, with localised outbreaks reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria as Africa’s most developed country goes back to work.
Events are ready to reopen, says SA industry
South Africa’s Event Safety Council (ESC) has released a set of guidelines it says will allow the safe reopening of the live events sector in the country.
The document, produced in partnership with the ESC’s partners in a new industry umbrella organisation, the similarly named SA Events Council, aims to assist South Africa’s hard-hit live business in resuming activity as soon and as safely as possible, in accordance with local regulations.
Production of the guidelines saw the ESC collaborate with other international organisations, including the Event Safety Alliance in the US, ensuring global best practice is “embedded throughout” the report, according to the organisation.
As of 18 June, South Africa is allowing small gatherings of under 50 people, under alert level three of its lockdown regulations.
“We are pleased to see the industry coming together to embrace safety protocols that protect employers, employees and freelancers”
With the release of the guidelines, the SA Event Council is working towards reopening the sector further. Among its recommendations are enhanced protocols related to sanitisation, cleaning, hygiene, attendee management, venue requirements and more.
“The event industry already carries out comprehensive risk assessment, safety checks and logistical planning for every event, so including a Covid-19 mitigation plan as an extension of existing event planning mechanisms is easily achievable,” says Mike Lord, the ESC’s interim chairman.
Kevan Jones, executive director of SACIA, the ESC’s parent organisation, adds: “During these difficult times we are pleased to see organised industry coming together to embrace safety protocols that protect employers, employees and freelancers working in the events industry.
“We look forward to fruitful and positive outcomes from these engagements. As representatives of the events sector, we remain engaged in looking for solutions to rebuild the economy of this much-needed sector.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
South Africa’s DreamStream fest breaks Zoom record
Ticketing and cashless payments platform Howler recently hosted the world’s largest Zoom music festival in aid of the South African live entertainment industry.
DreamStream – the biggest virtual festival to date to utilise videoconferencing service Zoom, and South Africa’s first large-scale online music event – ran from 24 to 26 April and featured livestreamed performances by 33 South African artists.
The festival raised nearly R500,000 (€25,000) in donations for the South African Fund 4 Entertainment (SAFE), an industry backed initiative formed to help those worst affected by the coronavirus and the ban on live events. Over 50,000 people in 130 countries viewed the stream over the course of the weekend.
“The two-way experience connected people in their homes like no other stream has done yet,” says Shai Evian, Howler CEO. “We wanted to create an experience that felt like a true festival with your friends. This was a ticket-only event and the fact that we had over 50,000 people through the online ‘gates’ for an online event that wasn’t streamed via social media is really something different.”
“We see a world where an online virtual experience will coexist alongside real-world festivals”
“What is even more exciting is that we believe we have unlocked a product that can live beyond the Covid-19 crisis,” he adds. “We see a world where an online virtual experience will coexist alongside real-world festivals, reaching far wider audiences globally and creating new revenue streams.”
The funds raised by DreamStream are being used to purchase food vouchers for the crew suffering the most under the current lockdown.
“SAFE is a platform for all online initiatives to support our crippled industry,” says Evian. “The support from the SA government is much smaller, financially, than some other countries. Based on the applications to SAFE to date we need to raise US$1 million just to feed our industry.”
Find out more, or donate to SAFE, at safefund.org.za.
Feed Our Crew supports freelancers in South Africa
Event production professionals in South Africa have set up the Feed Our Crew initiative, providing support to freelance live event technicians in the form of vouchers for food, electricity and other basic necessities.
The project, set up by Tamsyn Strydom, project manager of Johannesburg-based rental company MGG; Kagiso Moima Wa Masimini, owner of event management firm Blackmotion Production; and Marcia Alves of We Are Boundless, is providing ZAR 1,000 (€50) vouchers to out-of-work technicians until government support is available.
Working with People4Purpose, a local non-governmental organisation, Feed Our Crew distributes credit to recipients via their mobile phones. The vouchers are redeemable at major retailers ShopRite and Checkers, and can be used to buy groceries, medication and other essential utilities like electricity, mobile phone data and airtime.
“I am truly inspired with how our amazing industry is uniting, collaborating and pooling resources to help each other out on a practical and human level”
In two weeks, the scheme has received hundreds of applications and has dispatched 160 vouchers. The campaign has also garnered support from companies and individuals, including sponsors such as stage lighting supplier DWR, MGG and Blackmotion.
“There has been an immediate and devastating impact on the show and event industry across South Africa, and freelancers – the often invisible backbone of that usually vibrant industry – are particularly badly hit,” comments Feed Our Crew’s Daria Higgins, who runs events company True North.
“I am truly inspired with how our amazing industry is uniting, collaborating and pooling resources and ideas to help each other out on a practical and human level.”