Defend Truth


Sports awards: no call for imports

Dlamini is a writer, critic, traveller and portrait photographer. He also has a day job, sort of. His portraits of writers have been published in many top literary publications, but he mostly makes his living as Chairman of the Chillibush Group of Companies, which deals in the dark arts of advertising, public relations and event management. In 2007 Dlamini was the recipient of the South African Literary Awards' Literary Journalism prize. He regularly reviews books, especially from Southern Africa, and presents the The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast. Recent columns:

Beyoncé is a wonderful performer, a true phenomenon, one of the seven wonders of global music. But Big Concerts or Morris Rhoda can bring her to SA, not Fikile Mbalula. It defies logic that an event called the SA Sports Awards should be headlined by one of the most expensive global superstars.

If the Minister of Sports wants to dazzle his guests at the event, he can call on so many of South Africa’s superstars. Just imagine Hugh Masekela, Thandiswa Mazwai, Letta Mbulu, Die Antwoord, Simphiwe Dana, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Black Coffee, Bakithi Khumalo and Jonathan Butler performing for rapt audiences at the Sports Awards. That would be more than all the awesome that Beyoncé can bring to any event.

Our country is blessed with some of the world’s most original artists and our government has no reason to import US pop stars to an event that celebrates SA excellence. At a time when we go out to the world to convince it of our global stature, it is self-defeating not to use our own platforms to showcase the cream of our talent. What’s even more galling is that for Beyoncé, the amount she would be paid would be little more than a drop in the ocean. For many South African artists, such an amount would be a significant and responsible investment. On top of that, they would give the audience an unforgettable, world-class experience.

It’s not even a question of where the money is coming from. Even if there’s a private sector sponsor or a wealthy billionaire that wants to rub shoulders with Beyoncé, it would still be irresponsible for Minister Mbalula to allow so much money to be squandered on his watch. There is simply no compelling rationale that links importing a high priced pop star with the SA Sports Awards.

As journalist Gus Silber said, with appropriate sarcasm, “It’s fine for Beyoncé to sing at the SA Sports Awards, as long as Bafana get to play at the Grammys.”

Tshepo Mashile admonishes the Minister, “Poor form, Fikile, poor form. There’s no connection between Beyonce and sport. She should rather perform as part of her tour. What a waste.”

Perhaps the Minister need look no further than South Africa’s own sports stars to find someone that can dazzle and inspire a sports audience. We have so many stars, from golf, rugby, swimming, football, athletics and boxing. Many of them are global role models and they can inspire and motivate those at the awards. The problem with a big pop star is that it turns the awards evening into just another music gig, albeit an expensive one. But hardly anyone remembers the winners on the night.

In the words of Thabo Ndabula: “The same international artists that come here for the awards know nothing about the nominees. It’s just another gig for them.”

Actor and musician Clint Brink takes it further when he says, “ When they brought out Vivica A. Fox and Brandy, I was really pissed off. It’s a slap in the face of our own people.”

Expensive events like the SA Sports Awards show the extent to which SA has become a country in which spectacle holds sway. A little bit of glamour, many speeches and many millions later, the attention of SA sports lovers is fixed on a single event that diverts funds away from much-needed development. These glitzy events, where so many awards are dished out, do absolutely nothing sustainable for sport.

It is also interesting that the culture of awards ceremonies is taking place at precisely that moment when SA sport is going through one of its most barren spells. Bafana Bafana have not qualified for the African Nations Cup; the Springboks, Proteas and Banyana Banyana have not lifted a trophy in a long time. Only at the individual level have we had success. So there is really very little achievement to be rewarded. Like many of these award ceremonies, the dishing out of many awards in one evening reduces the very value they may have if there were a few, highly deserved ones.

If, however, there must be one big award evening, one wonders why it is not a co-ordinated version of the Provincial Sports Awards (e.g. the Gauteng Sports Awards) which are currently not combined. You have to ask why is there no co-ordination, as it would be a much more effective – and cost-effective – way of satisfying those with the urge to dish out awards.

To reiterate, the trouble really is not Beyoncé, but the idea that she can be invited to perform when SA has so many world-class performers that would grab the opportunity to headline such an event. Even if they are added to the lineup, it galls that they should be support acts in their own country.

Enough with these US pop stars at SA Sports Awards. The reported R50m price tag for the event is truly scandalous. Of this, a staggering R17m would be coughed up for less than an hour of Beyoncé’s time. In a country where the social calendars of the elite are crammed with invitations to endless events, the Sports Awards is simply yet another evening out for the pampered classes. But with a little imagination and less razzmatazz, such monies could be put to better use elsewhere.

The last word belongs to Zuzi Seoka, who says: “Instead of funding sports development, Mbalula would rather spend millions bringing Beyoncé to the sports awards! Priorities? Non-existent.” DM


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