OPINION

My Global Citizen Festival: A chaotic end to a beautiful night

05 December 2018 - 08:55 By Odwa Mjo
People flocked to the Global Citizen Festival at Soccer City, but many became victims of crime in a harrowing ordeal after the event.
People flocked to the Global Citizen Festival at Soccer City, but many became victims of crime in a harrowing ordeal after the event.
Image: TimesLIVE

Since it was announced in July, the Global Citizen Festival has dominated South African headlines and social media platforms.

Thousands of South Africans signed up to the Global Citizen app and were ready to take online action to earn themselves two tickets to see their favourite international and local artists at the FNB Stadium on December 2. 

The build-up to the festival was fantastic, as co-founder Hugh Evans went from one interview to another, detailing what we could expect on the day. The organisers also made sure that attendees were kept up to date through their website and social media regarding the logistics of the day. 

There were daily posts on the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Twitter page, briefing concert-goers on transport arrangements, weather forecasts, what to bring and what not to bring into the stadium. 

In the week of the festival, there were numerous build-up events. Social media was buzzing as the global stars jetted into Johannesburg. 

When the big day finally arrived, attendees were clued up about where to get their transport to the stadium and when their favourite artists would be on stage. The organisers had informed us about which roads would be closed and which routes we should avoid.

All in all, the plan seemed solid and Global Citizen was ready to host a crowd of approximately 65,000 people. 

Concert-goers were urged to arrive early as the doors opened at 11am and early birds would have their tickets upgraded. But everybody seemed to have the same idea and they were soon stuck in motionless queues with no direction as they attempted to enter FNB Stadium.

After what seemed like forever in the scorching-hot weather, crowds gradually started making their way into the venue.

As anticipated, it started to rain. If my memory serves me well, Evans in an interview on the 947 Breakfast Club  had mentioned that ponchos would be made available should it rain as umbrellas were not allowed in the stadium. However, there did not seem to be any process to hand out the promised ponchos, so people just bore the occasional showers throughout the afternoon. 

The purpose of the Global Citizen Mandela 100 was to celebrate the centenary of the late Nelson Mandela and to raise funds for various causes across the continent. 

The tribute was fitting for a man who remains an inspirations to many. From the star-studded musical line-up to the speeches from global leaders and celebrities, the organisers delivered on their promise. The crowd's energy was electrifying.

Arguably the most anticipated moment of the night was Beyoncé and Jay-Z's performance, which had tens of thousands of people screaming at the top of their lungs. 

But then a nightmare followed.

With over 60,000 people leaving the stadium at the same time, there were bound to be traffic jams. The organisers apparently had an agreement with Uber to ensure that people would not pay surge prices for their trips to and from the stadium. But as the demand for Uber exceeded the supply, prices surged anyway.

Struggling due to the lack of network access, many people opted to walk to the nearby Sasol garage on Nasrec Road to wait for their transport home. There concert-goers were met by perpetrators who attacked and robbed them. People were injured and phones and bags were stolen.

Understanding the narrative around crime in our country, it has become second nature to not rely on law enforcement to save the day.

CCTV footage shows hundreds of people scattering in between cars, trying to run to safety as they hear gunshots.

Law enforcement was apparently deployed at FNB Stadium and surrounding areas but for some reason, when their services were most needed they were nowhere to be found.

Perpetrators are always on the hunt at such events. Understanding the narrative around crime in our country, it has become second nature to not rely on law enforcement to save the day.

Concert-goers will have to live with the trauma of what happened in the post-Global Citizen chaos - some more than others. One young woman, for example, was attacked and dragged on the ground by a group of men. Others were mugged at knife- or gunpoint. 

The organisers could have foreseen some of these challenges and certain occurrences could surely have been avoided. This event will hopefully be a lesson learnt.

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