Rage Festival Group CEO Greg Walsh has lashed out at mainstream media over the cancellation of the Ballito and Plett Rage events.
The Ballito event was cancelled on the second day of festivities last Wednesday, after 36 people - four staff and 32 guests - tested positive for Covid-19 on the first day.
The Plett event in Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape was also cancelled last Thursday after reports indicated a high number of Covid-19 cases in the area.
In a video he posted on social media on Monday night, Walsh blamed news outlets for creating panic and hysteria leading to the events being cancelled.
Expressing his anger and disappointment, Walsh said, “The events of this last week have really upset me. They have brought deep despair and destruction to our organisations and teams. What is going on cannot continue. It is nonsense.”
He said in the video that the media “pressure” that mounted on organisers was extraordinary.
“It was extraordinary to listen to the media lie and spread panic and spread hysteria and call on politicians for us to cancel and call on parents for us to cancel and just continue to say things that weren’t true.”
Walsh emphasised that as organisers they went to great lengths to ensure a safe festival including making representations to the national and provincial health departments, the NICD, and even the World Health Organisation.
He also warned that matriculants would still go out to party in their groups whether there was an event or not.
He said while the Rage events offered a controlled environment where there was extensive testing and screening efforts, now school leavers will be partying anywhere.
“We have to remember, matriculants are not going to party because nobody provides them with a party. They have had 12 years of school, they had all their freedoms curbed and this was their opportunity.”
He called on the events industry to stand up against media.
“As an industry, we need to stand up against media. We need to call out media in their game, because they keep trying to use us as a tool to tell their version of the story and not tell our version of the story.”
He said before Ballito Rage, everyone was tested at home.
“Nineteen people out of 1 400 said to us, ‘I tested positive. I won’t be joining you.’ Two more said, ‘I had contact with somebody. I won’t be joining you.’ We refunded them.
“On November 29, we tested 122 staff, all tested negative. On November 30 which was our opening day, we tested the remaining 63 staff who were working that day, four tested positive.
“... we tested the first 777 of our customers who joined us and 32 tested positive. Now, that is under 4% positivity. On the same day in South Africa the positivity rate was 16.5% of all tests and one day later over 20% of all tests were positive.”
He said the Rage events were a service to public health.
“And in cancelling them we were complicit in making the situation worse but had no choice, because the media put so much pressure on us, and so much pressure on high ranking politicians that even they were left in a position to say, ‘we know we approved this, we know we support you, we know it’s better for you to stay open because you’ll test everyone everyday, but we’re also asking you to cancel,’ knowing that these people will stay in our town and party on.
“They won’t get tested any further, we won’t know, but better that than a public media outcry spectacle were we as the event organisers get blamed for the spread of Covid-19 when in fact it has nothing to do with us...”
He said, “Those people that tested positive before Ballito Rage, did obviously not get Covid-19 at the Ballito Rage.”
He said over 1 000 people lost work due to the cancellations.