Cape Town - Having been fully immersed in the Cape minstrel culture over the past four weeks, I left the road march on Tweede Nuwejaar disappointed and feeling like Cape Town is missing a trick.
The city is sitting on a potential gold mine – an event supported by hundreds of thousands of people annually, with a close to 150-year heritage that could be worth millions if properly marketed and organised to run smoothly.
The road march ran about three to four hours late, with complaints about a lack of toilets and refreshment stations for minstrels and spectators.
Fingers were pointed at the City of Cape Town, but as Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development explains in his letter published in the Cape Argus on Wednesday, this was the second time the road march and carnival was organised by the Cape Cultural Events and Carnival Committee and not the city.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by all parties involved, detailing the responsibilities.
Bloor says R3.65 million was paid to various associations to cover the costs of the city services, writes Bloor.
Bloor has questioned claims that the City of Cape Town is not supportive enough of the annual parade.
But, if one considers other events hosted in Cape Town, it beggars belief that the minstrels’ parade always falls flat.
Recently, Cape Town Stadium hosted the first Mother City leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series. The weekend ran smoothly, starting on time and, barring expected traffic congestion, was, by all accounts, a resounding success.
Similarly, when concerts are held at the stadium they run smoothly. The logistics don’t seem to be a problem.
But, every year, the minstrels’ parade is guaranteed to provide headaches.
In reaction to the recent outbursts on social media, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation issued a statement condemning “the racist comments and views that infer that black people are like barbarians and should not be allowed onto public beaches”. The statement read further: “This is similar to Taj Hotel asking the Cape Minstrels to remain silent on their parade route because hotel clients would be ‘disturbed’.”
Do businesses along the now famous fan walk make similar requests before events at the stadium, where often fans en route to big football matches blow their vuvuzelas indiscriminately?
Are we to infer that businesses view the minstrels differently?
At the beginning of our #MinstrelMemoirs series, one of the consultants to Santam D6 Entertainers, Achmat Gyer, told us the minstrels are “seen as low-class” so are not as well supported by all parties as some would like us to believe. That is despite the fact that among D6’s ranks are doctors, lawyers, university lecturers and deans, newspaper editors, teachers and chartered accountants.
There are many uncomfortable conversations still to be had regarding this piece of heritage.
Has the time come to hand the running of the parade over to an events company that can secure the permits, manage logistics, make sure teams stick to a strict schedule and ensure the event is marketable worldwide as the quintessential road march on the Cape Town calendar?
Or can the city, minstrel associations and organising committee work together more constructively to ensure this potential destination tourism event is no longer just an accidental parade that leaves frustration in its wake?
If we can get it right, and it is in our best interests to do so, the minstrels parade could bring in millions in revenue.
Cape Town can only win.