GIMC: At your own risk

You might want to rethink attending the Gaborone International Music and Culture Week

Published by: Nomonde Mohapi
On: 05 September 2017

A HUGE SHOUT OUT TO MASA HOTEL AND AVANI HOTEL FOR HOSTING US WITH SUCH EXCELLENT HOSPITALITY, TENDING TO OUR EVERY NEED DURING OUR STAY FOR THE GIMC.

In its fourth year running, the annually held, week-long extravaganza meant to hype up the old and young Batswana into spring, The Gaborone International Music and Culture Week, has left a bitter taste in my mouth and will definitely go down in history as the worst festival I have ever attended. And this is why:

VIP SECTION

fIFI

This is literally the only picture of me I have of this event, taken by my friend and colleague with her phone because she had already hidden her camera away from the robbers whilst I was checking if mine is still functioning after it rolled under a car during the first stampede. After this picture, everything just went downhill.                                                 Picture: Fifi Monosi

Look, I am not one for the VIP section, I merely find myself there due to my line of work but generally my financial standing does not allow me such luxuries, aside from that I am really a die-hard golden circle girl, I doubt I’d buy a VIP ticket even if NSFAS deposited 14 million into my bank account.

There’s something so genuine about the golden circle. This is where we take off our bras and throw them on stage, this is where you will find yourself holding a stranger’s hand and crying together with them because you equally love a particular song (I once did with a white guy at Lady Gaga’s concert) This is where the die-hard fans are, there’s so much love, warmth and a unity that stems from the love of music. As for the VIP section, a home for the obnoxious, they just came to show off their Prada.

The VIP section looked like a sewage-spewing refugee camp, with its floors painted with trifle regurgitation because a very smart person thought “oh let me just make some desert for people who are going to be drinking alcohol all night long”. It was basically a VIP section because it had sitting and primary school sandwiches. Not forgetting that non-VIP ticket holders could access the VIP section because the bouncers were taking a nap with their eyes wide open, making it so easy for criminals to jump over the barricades and steal the belongings of the obnoxious lot.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Security

Security personnel as meek as ever, just chilling whilst the crowd wants to cross over to the stage                                                 Picture: The Voice Newspaper

I am not well versed in events management but I know without a doubt that if one organizes a big event, especially one in which people pay for, they must as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the safety of those attending the event. At the heart of ensuring the safety of those attending is the hiring of a reputable security company, a security company whose staff is trained in incident and risk management practices together with security guards who are physically trained for the job. But it seems the organisers of the GIMC concert gave no hoots about that.

The event was what we call a total disaster: Police visibility was two horsemen with whips, in a stadium full of a multitude of people. The security guards were security guards by virtue of wearing reflective vests printed “security”. Poor guys, they did not know what the hell they were doing, they looked so lost, it’s as though they were chosen for the job just sitting outside Choppies supermarket on a hot sunny day.

I doubt those guys know what security inspection is, since they could not prevent unauthorized entrance into the venue, since people were stabbed under their watch.

I am yet to understand how one can organize a concert that attracts multitude of people without employing parking attendants to control traffic flow and parking. There was no vehicle screening and I know without a shadow of doubt that no pre-event parking lot sweep procedures were performed as the parking area turned into a maze that drivers could not get out of at the end of the event and cars were broken into. This was the worst kind of negligence.

POOR SOUND
I don’t think the sound was poor from the get go, but the absence of proper security force inside the stadium resulted to that. The crowd in the golden circle collapsed the perimeter fence that separates them from the stage because they all wanted to climb on stage, to do what you ask, even I don’t know but I assume that the consumption of alcohol and an unreasonable love for a particular artist might have influenced that move. During that whole Jerusalem migration to the stage by the golden circle crowd, cables were disconnected and wrecked.

TIME
There’s African time and then there’s what happened at GIMC, I actually have no words to express my feelings on this one. But if an artist is scheduled to perform at 10pm and they get on stage at 1am the next day, you would also run out of words.

FATAL STAMPEDE
Nametso Bogopa, affectionately known as Nemo was a 20 year old University Of Botswana student. I was not there when Nemo died but for some reason when I close my eyes I can see her lifeless body, just lying there after being crushed by a crowd of impatient fans, who forced their way into the stadium when Botswana’s rap sensation, ATI came on stage. It is reported that fans queued for more than 3 hours to gain entry into the venue and some were turned away because the area in the stadium that was designated for the event was full to capacity. And this resulted to fans force opening the gates, and impatience turning into a stampede.

It’s as though I can see Nemo fighting for her life under the merciless feet and surrendering to death after having fought so much to stay alive.

I say she fought because I now know that people fight before they surrender to death, I fought under the merciless feet, I cried and bargained with God and at that point, the merciless feet had tossed me under a moving car with my camera in hand but I was still fighting to stay alive.

I could hear my colleagues shouting and telling the driver to stop but I could also hear loneliness, it was quiet, it was still, my death was near but I survived, Nemo didn’t. And my survival has been a burden rather than a blessing because I carry so much guilt, I feel like I betrayed her, I feel like my survival is a laugh in her face, I feel like I should have died with her, like it was unfair for her to have been the only one to die. I mourn her death to this day.

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