Artists, COSBOTS in lockjaw ahead of lockdown

As the advent of a total coronavirus loomed ever larger, police had to intervene when artists sought to compel COSBOTS CEO Lesego Solotate to sit down and listen to them last Friday. GOSEGO MOTSUMI reports

The proverbial saying that a hungry man is an angry man was evident last week when local artists invaded offices of the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) on Friday last week for their next royalty payout from the company’s CEO, Lesego Solotate.

A confrontation ensued within minutes of the artists presenting their grievances, and the police soon intervened by taking the protagonists away.
With a nationwide coronavirus lockdown looming, artists pointed out that they would be out in the cold because the entertainment industry was the first to take a hit in the current measures to prevent and contain the pandemic.

Speaking inside the COSBOTS boardroom, jazz artist and music industry advocate, Thabang Garogwe, laid the matter before Solotate: “Artists have not been paid their royalties for the past 13 months. We currently have no bookings and royalties are our only source of income. I need to make it clear that I am speaking on behalf of other aggrieved COSBOTS members.
“We have a group and there are more than 1000 of us. As artists, we cannot be condemned to poverty designed by people like us. We have dignified and reputable musicians who are exploited and we are sending the wrong message to a child who might one day want to join the industry.”

“We are here to assist you to realise that artists are at work and deserve to be paid. As much as all staff members at COSBOTS are paid without fail, help me restore the dignity of musicians without any excuses. Musicians are not born to be paupers because we have works.”

Whereupon Afro-pop artist, Lizibo Simon, accused Solotate of being indifferent about issues of artists. Solotate’s response was that he understood the plight of artist and announced that he had another commitment to attend to across town, standing up to leave. This prompted a physical confrontation that entailed Solotate being manhandled to prevent him leaving, with some of the artists all the while telling him to sit down.

It was at this point that the police arrived and soon took the main actors with them to Naledi Police Station.
When this publication subsequently followed the matter up, an evasive Seeletso Lekgaba said the next royalty distribution was imminent and that details of how much was collected and how much would go into administrative costs would follow. “What we can share with you at this stage is that COSBOTS Board has declared a distributable amount of P3 million,” the COSBOTS spokesperson said.

“This amount will be shared between local and foreign artists and the split is a function of the actual usage of the works. As you are aware, it is common knowledge that foreign repertoire is exploited more than the works of our local artists. A total of 980 artists will benefit. It is the desire of the COSBOTS Board and management to pay our artists. However, we cannot say for certain that payments will happen before the imminent lockdown (for the coronavirus).”

Meanwhile, COSBOTS posted a statement on its Facebook page on Saturday. “The unfortunate incident that occurred at their office was a misunderstanding between members and their officers.” The company added that it would release a more detailed statement on Monday (yesterday).

But artists had dug in their heels before the police intervened on Friday. “We have made it a tradition to always beg for what is due to us,” Garogwe said. “We have normalised it but it is not acceptable. Our duty is to produce works and we have lost our dignity as artists because most of us cannot even afford to feed ourselves. We are here because we want to send a strong message that we want to be paid.”

News reaching TimeOut is that jazz artist Thabang Garogwe was yesterday (Monday) charged with common nuisance from the affray with the chief executive of COSBOTS Lesego Solotate. The charge attracts a penalty of P100 that Solotate reportedly refused, preferring to take the matter to the Naledi Customary Court for prosecution.