No-one was safe from #GlobalCitizenFestival debacle
Gauteng / 3 December 2018, 9:12pm / Siphelele Dludla
Johannesburg - A lot has been said and written about the lack of safety and security in and outside the FNB Stadium in Nasrec during the Global Citizen Festival on Sunday.
But what many might not know is that everyone was fair game, including journalists, at the hands of thugs and criminals who terrorised music revellers when they sought shelter at a nearby petrol station in what could be best described as a comedy of errors.
South Africans have every right to be angry about this apparent prioritisation of dignitaries and VIPs safety and security at the expense of local ordinary folk. I did not stay long enough at the stadium to experience the horrific scenes but I had already experienced enough disorganisation
I started out in an Uber from my residence to the Sandton Convention Centre as per instruction from the local public relations firm that was overseeing media management and authorised communications of the festival.
I knew parking would be a problem both at the stadium and in Sandton.
At Sandton Convention Centre, journalists were registered and allocated buses for transportation to Nasrec Expo Centre.
The first shuttle for Tier1 journalists, of which I was part, was meant to leave at 10am but left 20 minutes later because of unexplained delays. Except for no supply of water on board, the ride was smooth until we arrived at Nasrec.
The journalists who were gathered there were told to form a line and had their bags searched by security guards and police officers. Very quickly a lack of direction and communication became evident.
After being searched, journalists should have been shuttled in groups of 13 to the stadium through Gate-K at entrance 13.
Instead, about 30 journalists were taken for a spin around the Expo Centre, ending up where they began and then having to walk the distance to the stadium.
I discovered as we made our way past the police we had passed on our earlier trip that the shuttles meant for us were now ferrying dignitaries.
So we had a choice - wait for the shuttles until the dignitaries had been sorted, which we were told would take a long time, or walk. The choice was easy.
A representative of the PR firm, who kept questioning his colleagues about where we should go, was leading the walkabout. All the while we were baking in the scorching sun with no drinking water.
It was more than an hour since we had left Sandton and we were still nowhere near the stadium, let alone the media centre where we were meant to work.
It was nearly midday and some among us who hadn't had breakfast since we had an early start, complained about hunger pangs.
From Nasrec Expo journalists were led close to the tent that was the main entrance to members of the public and some security guards were instructed to let us in using one of the gates in the fence.
There was another security checkpoint at the top of the pedestrian bridge, but they opened a separate gate for the media and we entered, leaving thousands of fans standing in queues outside.
More disorganisation surfaces as the group leader led the journalist down to the basement where dignitaries and VIPs were arriving on the red carpet and then promptly ushered us back to the ground level of the stadium, much to the frustration of an American journalist who screamed at the group leader.
Essentially, journalists from Tier1 entered the stadium and went to the media lounge at 1.30pm after having left Sandton just after 10am. All this time we did not have access to water or cold drinks. The queues at pop-up food stalls were insanely long.
But they made up for this as journalists were well-catered for with food and drinks at the media centre.
Fortunately, the whole concert made up for the frustration experienced by many in accessing the stadium. One of my cousins was texting me still outside the stadium when Pharrell Williams was performing, having been in the queue since 8am.
I had no desire to stay until the end of the show, I don't do very well with large crowds. I left the concert soon after Ed Sheeran's performance, which was amazing.
I could see that thugs were already milling outside the venue, with some having the gall to ask me for "spare tickets".
When I walked to the security checkpoint tent, following a young couple, I discovered that it had no electricity at that time and was in total darkness even though there were at least three female and two male security guards.
Some people were jumping the fence and security guards were too exhausted to even stop them, they just exasperatedly pointed at those shouting "Sikubonile njalo", which means "We saw you".
The street from the tent to the designated Uber pick-up spot also had no electricity but there were a couple of police vehicles and officers around. I stopped at the pick-up spot and tried logging into my Taxify App without any success.
As there were many strange-looking people moving around, I decided to walk towards the Sasol garage to see if I could get a taxi for hire while carrying my phone trying to pick up a signal. Luckily, a mini-bus taxi was driving by on its way to Joburg CBD, hooting in search of passengers.
I decided on the spot to take the taxi and connect with another one from Bree street to my home. It was the best decision I could have made.
By the time I reached home, Cassper Nyovest was finishing his amazing set. I feel for my media colleagues and the revellers who witnessed the horrific scenes after the show and were stuck in traffic for hours.
It's without doubt that South Africa has successfully hosted global events with aplomb in recent past but questions need to be asked about this lack of security which made people sitting ducks for criminality at FNB Stadium.
That the law-enforcement authorities are denying incidents of mass muggings and robberies outside the stadium speaks to how the government pays lip service to combating crime and protecting the most vulnerable when they need it most, not least because it has happened during a benefit concert to raise funds for the protection of women and children.