Why do SA politicians love Beyoncé so much?

2013-10-13 10:00

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Beyoncé is big. Huge. She’s like the Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman huge. She’s so big, every time we in South Africa have a celebration, be it sports awards or 20 years of democracy, her name is bandied about as a possible headliner for an event.

This year’s Beyoncé rumour once again set tongues wagging in the media, got artists trés upset and Twitterheads in a dither.

The heart of the matter was a rumour going around that the Tshwane council was willing to spend 35?million Randelas on getting Beyoncé to perform here next year as part of the 20 years of democracy celebrations.

The usual “why not spend it on local artists?” started doing the rounds. Why not?…?wah wah wah. It’s the same story every year, it seems.

The public hears of an event willing to attract major acts, sees the word “international” and immediately the hive mind flies to “Beyoncé in Las Vegas”.

Talk Radio 702’s John Robbie cleared up the confusion and found out from the mayor of Tshwane, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, that none of this was going to be the case at

next year’s proposed Dinokeng Festival to be held in Cullinan, an area east of the country’s capital.

The festival is apparently to be modelled on the UK’s Glastonbury Festival. According to Ramokgopa, Beyoncé headlining this festival is just a malicious rumour, which was initially seen in a Beeld article that mentioned her and D’Banj as proposed acts.

According to the mayor, it’s preposterous to suggest that they were willing to spend that kind of money on a Beyoncé show when the initiative was born from a desire to invest in that area and revitalise its economy.

What’s clear, though, is South Africans are never surprised when money is wasted or thrown around as though this isn’t a country with unbearably high unemployment and poverty.

The profligacy of certain among the public sector has been well noted and documented.

A Beyoncé craving in government is symptomatic of the rot that has set in.

So is this rumour wholly unfounded? Can we even blame the rumour-mongers for daring to start it in the first place, if indeed it is just a rumour?

After Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile “Razzmatazz” Mbalula created controversy last year for saying on radio that he wanted to bring Beyoncé to perform at a sports awards show, we can’t say we blame them.

This is the same Beyoncé who can charge $2?million (R20?million) per hour for private performances for the sons of controversial figures. Ja neh?…

What’s also certain is that what the country’s musicians need, as suggested to artist Thandiswa Mazwai by author and playwright Zakes Mda, is to unionise, and have a strong union at that.

This thing of being treated as second-class citizens in the country they love and live for, and make art for, is just ridiculous.

You have to be “more clever” about this, because every year y’all are out here feeling disrespected, and it’s not on. Be more clever!

We’re also looking at the folk who acted like reaching for Glastonbury-like festivals could never be in the purview or potentiality of any (black) South African concert promoters – dude, it will, like, take time, but, like, it can happen.

Yes we can, bru, yes we can! But just not with taxpayers’ money, I’m guessing.

This palaver is not something the country’s artists should continue to just watch unfold year after year, as they are tossed over for the “big” names in black music.

If you’re looking for deep as the ocean blue, strong and true, how about sipping from the soul-drenched wells of culture from the Simphiwe Danas, the Thandiswa Mazwais, the Zaharas and more. You name it, we’ve got it right here, Mzansi.

Unless, as Mazwai tweeted, you are bringing home the new Nina Simones or the new Stevie Wonders, you’re not bringing us the revolutionaries.

And if you’re going to celebrate 20 years of democracy (or not!) what is more amazing than to celebrate it by seeing yourself in your own artists, who are part of a proud cultural heritage, right here?

Most of the time, we’re told to think American artists are better or worth more than our own.

For a country of revolutionaries, this is some pretty middling, conformist s**t.

Are you going to pay our artists similar amounts? Are you going to treat them well? It’s just plain wrong to do this to our beloved and talented artists, and give them that famous presidential middle finger while you’re at it.

I love me some Bey, but not giving our artists equal respect is unacceptable!

»?Follow me on Twitter @lkmnthali

»?This piece first appeared in Afripopmag.com, where Mnthali is contributing editor

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