Festivals future bleak as Bots cracks whip on unruly revellers

Gaborone – Plans by Botswana to ban music festivals in the wake of the death of a university student has divided government and the legal fraternity amid recurring sentiment President Ian Khama was using the tragedy to curtail the rights of some citizens.

Khama has been leading calls for the ban of such activities after the University of Botswana scholar’s death at a recent show headlined by some South African musicians at the Botswana National Stadium in the capital Gaborone.

Third year Business Management student, Nametso Bogopa (22) was crushed to death in a stampede at the Gaborone International Music and Culture (GIMC) held at the 22,000-seater venue.

A large crowd forced itself into the overflowing stadium where such musicians as Mafikizolo, Casper Nyovest and Prince Kaybee among others were performing.

In addition to the loss of life, criminal syndicates made the most of the event and attacked revelers.

At least six people were stabbed reportedly resisting robberies. Police reported mobile phones and valuables were stolen from revelers while some cars were broken into.

There were even reports of rape.

The tragedy has angered authorities, including President Ian Khama.

A directive from his office banned the holding of music festivals at stadia and other public places.

However, Khama’s administration has given a temporary reprieve, allowing the staging of music festivals booked until the end of year.

Stakeholders will in the meantime discuss a way forward.

The music industry and other stakeholders have bemoaned the decision as a spur-of-the-moment call but Khama is adamant.

“An injury to one is an injury to all. We cannot take for granted that one

life has been lost at the event,” the president said.

“To us (government) that is a big loss and we have to be accountable to control any lawlessness to avoid further damage,” said Khama.

Prominent attorney, Owen Nsala, denounced government’s response as “irrational” and an affront to “the dictates of the country’s founding democratic principles.”

Critics have branded Khama as becoming increasingly dictatorial since assuming power in 2008. He has ruled the Southern African country of 2 million with a firm hand.

“We have known that decisions are taken after all those with interest in the matter are afforded an opportunity to make representations and presenzt facts which may tilt any pending decision in the favour of a sound argument,” Nsala said of the presidency’s reaction to the tragedy in Gaborone.

“Those days are sadly becoming a thing of the past as we now live in a world of circulars and dictates by a stroke of a pen from the powers-that-be,” he added.

Nsala said while the young woman’s death was regrettable, government must consider a “rational approach” to the issue.

“I surmise that a life has been lost. That however must not be an excuse to go against the known cardinals of natural justice and defiantly seek a closure to night life, which of course is a source of livelihood for many,” the attorney said.

The National Stadium will be under the spotlight again in November during the Gaborone Annual Spring Festival (GASF).

English reggae and pop band, UB40, will headline the festival.

Thapelo Olopeng, the minister of youth empowerment, sports and culture development has warned that government is prepared to impose a ban should any skirmishes and loss of life be suffered during the forthcoming festivals.

“Should we have anything like this again, I will cancel music festivals for two years if I have to,” he threatened.

He said stakeholders had between now and November to devise strategies that safeguard the lives of music lovers.

“The truth of the matter is that what happened at the stadium is not something to be proud of. It resulted in the loss of a precious life, numerous rape incidents and damage to property,” Olepeng lamented. – CAJ News

September 2017
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