90% empty: #ThankYouSABC concert a massive flop

Hlaudi Motsoeneng. (Gallo Images)
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – The hastily organised, shambolic and badly attended Thank You SABC concert that took place on Saturday turned into a monumental flop and a big embarrassment for the SABC.

Despite promises of free T-shirts and gifts to those who attend the concert at the Orlando Stadium, the self-named Thank You SABC Music Concert was an embarrassing bust for the beleaguered public broadcaster.

Arranged to thank the SABC for boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s diktat of 90% needletime to local music, it was slammed by political parties, commentators and artists, while on social media people were having a field day at the SABC's expense.

Saturday’s Thank You SABC Music Concert that was promised to "fill up the stadium and fill up the stomachs of the artists" started hours late with no explanation and quickly went from very bad to worse, taking the SABC's image with it. 

While the Orlando Stadium seats 40 000 people, barely 1 000 people showed up.

With an abandoned line-up, some invited artists like Jack Parow were not even able to make it to the stage, waited hours and left and several promised headline artists completely ditched the event that had shockingly low attendance.

Industry insiders expressed shock in the week when the SABC suddenly announced the Thank You SABC Concert on Tuesday – a massive event that usually takes months of preparation and planning.

The Thank You SABC Concert organised by Mzwake Mbuli was supposed to have 100 South African musicians "from all genres" performing at Orlando Stadium – but it was anything but. Not only were there not 100 artists, the music was definitely not from all genres.

In the week artists slammed the SABC and organisers on SABC television during a live broadcast, saying “the doors are closed to us” at the SABC and wanting to know why young artists are allegedly not given exposure at the Thank You SABC Concert.

'The entire SABC is here'

Starting more than two and a half hours late, artists like the Soweto String Quartet on Saturday afternoon performed at the Thank You SABC Concert to a virtually empty Orlando Stadium normally seating 40 000 people. 

Even the SABC Choir promised on the programme line-up was a total no-show.

Meanwhile the SABC's SABC News division reporting on the event, kept to close-up angles and cropped shots on Saturday afternoon, trying to make the empty stadium look full while in reality there was no crowd.

That didn't stop some stragglers from telling the SABC during a live interview on SABC News (DStv 404) that the concert is badly organised and that the artists and organisers "have a problem with time-management".

In an embarrassing interview in the almost empty stadium, the SABC executive Bessie Tugwana, who was recently moved to head of the SABC's corporate affairs division, said "today the whole country is standing still, paying tribute to SABC".

"We are humbled by the gratitude and the entire SABC is here to witness this groundbreaking gratitude."

Later Mbuli as the organiser was interviewed. "Look, young and old are here," he said.

'Are you there?'

In the week Mzwake Mbuli said the concert is going to break records – so much so that it should be entered as a Guiness World Record. 

"What we are doing must go to the Guinness Book of Records," said Mbuli.

On Saturday night Motsoeneng as the SABC's chief operating officer (COO), the minister of communications Faith Muthambi, and the SABC chairperson Obert Maguvhe were among those who attended a part of the event and appeared on stage.

From the stage Maguvhe bellowed: "Are you there? Are you there?"

Later Maguvhe said: "We want to give an assurance to you that local content is here to stay. We want to ensure that talent is unearthed, talent is developed, talent is promoted and talent is nurtured."

'No-one knew what was going on'

By 14:02 on Saturday – although the concert was billed to start at 10:00 – the SABC reported using future tense that "people are trickling into the Orlando stadium in Soweto where the much-anticipated SABC Thank You music concert will take place".

"The SABC's vainly self-named Thank You SABC Concert aimed at thanking itself is a massive flop and a waste of public money. It demands investigating. We demand an investigation into the SABC's wasteful, 95% empty Thank You SABC Concert. Those responsible should pay back the money," said the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).