Johannesburg - Soweto music lovers were left disappointed after the inaugural Soweto International Jazz Festival was abruptly cancelled by the organisers. The organisers announced on Saturday that the 2018 instalment of the festival - supposed to empower youth, women and musicians - had been cancelled due to “logistical delays”.
Initially the four-day event had cancelled their Friday shows and workshops dedicated to the empowerment of women under the theme Power of Women, only to later cancel the entire weekend festival.
Cape Town couple Phumzile and Lungelwa Makhosana, who flew to Joburg to experience the much anticipated international music festival, found the festival gates closed.
“I was annoyed, I must say because there was no communication at all. We only realised that the show had been cancelled on Friday, when we were at Jabulani in Soweto,” Phumzile said. “Absolutely no communication, I was highly disappointed,” he said.
The Star later caught up with the Makhosanas, who were about to board a flight back home. The couple had spent more than R5000 to attend the festival.
In a lengthy press statement, festival organisers said: “Due to logistical delays, we could not get the permission needed from the joint operations committee.
“We have always been committed to ensure that all our events are safe and we remain committed to ensure we always comply with all by-laws and city regulations.
“We have been advised by our attorneys that we have legal grounds to pursue this matter further and we will rigorously defend all our legal rights in the coming days,” the statement said.
The Star made several attempts to get clarity on who exactly the joint operations committee were and what the logistical delays were, but the newspaper could not get a response at the time of publication.
The organisers claim to have lost close to R15million in private investments to bring the festival to life.
The event got off to a slow start on Thursday with performances beginning several hours later than the set times and a change of venue due to the cool weather.
The four-day event was supposed to see artists of various genres from around the world perform and entertain music lovers.
International soul singer Deborah Cox said: “I am extremely disheartened that the festival was not allowed to happen. I was looking forward to performing for the amazing people of Soweto and Jozi.”
Local jazz artist Ernie Smith said: “I am very disappointed at the lost opportunities for us, my community and fellow artists.”
Nolan Baynes, general manager of International Arts Solutions, said: “We deeply regret the loss of the economic impact this festival was due to have on the local community. The festival was due to employ 150 local musicians and 300 local suppliers.
“All our suppliers were from Soweto at a cost of R4.5m (security, cleaning staff, fencing staff, stage, sound, catering services and much more.)
“We had 22 vendors set up, which included food, and arts and crafts. We also had an event mentorship management programme which had engaged with 50 students from the Soweto Skills Academy,” Baynes said.
He was unable to give further details regarding cancellation of the festival beyond what was written in the statement.
However, to make up for the unforeseen cancellation, Baynes said the international acts who could not perform at the festival were given the opportunity to perform at a jam session at the popular Soweto lounge KwaLichaba on Sunday afternoon.
The organisers said they had been planning for a year to ensure they delivered a world-class festival.
“Our team worked extremely hard to meet this momentous task and to ensure all the rigorous standards were in place. Unfortunately, due to matters out of our control, we don’t believe that goal can be accomplished right now.”