Photos and video footage of an African National Congress (ANC) rally held at the Luthuli 9L Sports Grounds in Ward 14 in Polokwane on Sunday, 8 November 2020, has been attracting criticism for its complete disregard for the lockdown level 1 restriction that the South African government has put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These restrictions include:

  • Only a maximum of 500 people may gather at an outdoor event;
  • Social distancing must be enforced, and a venue may not exceed 50% of its capacity;
  • Everyone must wear a face mask.

All of the above restrictions were breached at this event.

“We are absolutely disgusted at what has happened.”

The South African live events industry has reacted with shock, dismay and anger to this incident. Sharif Baker, Chairman of the Technical Production Services Association (TPSA), says, “This event has taken place where thousands of people did not follow a protocol whatsoever while the live events industry starves.”

For the past eight months, the live events industry has effectively been shut down because of the strict restrictions that have been placed on public gatherings. This has affected the full value chain of events, from venues and event organisers, to exhibition stand builders, technical AV crew and suppliers, catering companies, artists and MCs, and more. And while virtual and hybrid events are starting to gain traction, it is not sufficient to support businesses – many have retrenched staff, are in business rescue or have shut down.

Despite the huge challenge this has posed, the industry has consistently respected government’s regulations.

Despite the huge challenge this has posed, the industry has consistently respected government’s regulations. Any protests that have been held – such as #LightSAred on 5 August – have been peaceful and have adhered to all required safety protocols.

“We as the TPSA, SACIA [Southern African Communications Industries Association] and SA Events Council have lodged a complaint with the South African Police, in particular with the Provincial Commissioner of Limpopo, Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba. We are absolutely disgusted at what has happened. It’s a smack in the face for the lives at stake, and literally a smack in the face of us in events who are abiding by the law,” says Baker.

He adds that they have also been in communication with Nkosinathi Emmanuel ‘Nathi’ Mthethwa, the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, while copying in Khumbudzo Phophi Silence Ntshavheni, the Minister of Small Business Development, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubanem the Minister of Tourism, and the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

The incident comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly urges “the greatest vigilance” from all citizens in order to prevent a resurgence of the virus and economic damage this would cause – as stated in his weekly letter, From the desk of the President, that was issued on Monday, 9 November.