Artists turn timid ahead of planned protest

• March aimed at protesting stinting royalty payments


Artists are planning a protest march against COSBOTS’ regime of users’ non-compliance and stinting royalties, The Gazette has established.

Even so, the planning stage of the industrial action by artists, a first time development for Botswana, revealed poor response for what is being conceived as a non-violent march to the offices of the Copyright Society of Botswana at Commerce Park in Gaborone. It has emerged that the reason for the poor turnout of artists is that several of them have distanced themselves from the planned protest for fear of being blacklisted for events.

Nevertheless, the convener of the meeting is Jazz artist Thabang Garogwe, who says the plan is to hand over a letter protesting artists’ grievances to the collections society. Other issues in the letter will express artists’ loss of confidence in “incompetent” board members. “As things stand, the government pays COSBOTS but COSBOTS does not pay us what is due to us as artists,” says Garogwe. “We have many options to challenge the status quo but we decided on a mass protest. I have applied for a permit to challenge COSBOTS in a peaceful manner. But we have since realised that artists are failing to fight for their rights as only a few are willing to participate out of more than 200 concerned COSBOTS members. We are cowards!”

Garogwe said they had no fighting bone in their bodies but most artists’ were mere online advocates who sat at computer keyboards to complain without action. “This must stop,” he said. “We are the only people to blame for our lot because we can’t stand up for ourselves in matters that affect us.”

Meanwhile, Afro pop artist Lizibo Simon has emerged among a handful of artists willing to stand up for their rights. Lizibo strongly believes that COSBOTS is failing to carry out its mandate. “This is our first step to engage the board and I hope other artists will warm up to the idea of protesting because some were concerned about ‘proper channels.’ But what I have satisfied myself that we won’t be breaking any laws by this protest march.”

For his part, promoter and commentator, Seabelo Modibe, says the biggest issue is that royalties are not paid and the focal point should be calling an extraordinary meeting to select a task team to investigate why royalty payouts drop significantly each year. “We have a lot of educated artists so it would be very easy to form such a team,” says Modibe.

“This canvassing has never been done before, yet the current COSBOTS board does not engage with members. We need to sit down with them and evaluate their performance in a democratic manner. I am not a part of the team that is planning to protest but I await the day.