Chronicles of the first gigs after shutdown

As most people still fretted over the Delta variant, revellers at entertainment spaces and chilling sessions partied as if COVID was less trouble than the common flu, prompting a mightily troubled Vee Mampeezy to take to social media about the need to become more responsible. Staff Writer GOSEGO MOTSUMI reports

The performance industry has made a welcome return as the country moved out of the State of Emergency (SoE) on Botswana Day, September 30.

Creatives moved swiftly to take advantage, with some artists staging music shows immediately after the end of the SoE to welcome the new normal of co-existing with the virus. Odirile “Vee Mampeezy” Sento, Franco Lesokwane and Maxy Sedumedi were among the first to stage gigs after 18 long months of no activity in the performance industry.
But staging live events was a step into the unknown and the expectation was that the crowd of fans would stand in socially distanced sections in compulsory face masks when events returned. Promoters and bar and night club owners had promised that those who dared to remove their face coverings would immediately attract the attention of vigilant security guards. This implied that when an artist arrived on stage, they would face the difficult task of providing much-needed normality in the strangest of settings.

However, Batswana were in a festive mood, more so that it was the Independence Day holidays and they flocked festivals, bars and other chilling spots a day after the restrictions were relaxed. Revellers were crammed up in venues with neither social distancing nor face masks in sight even though the population is not fully vaccinated. The scene resembled that of live events pre COVID-19.

Acknowledging that the reopening was a step into the unknown, kwaito-kwasa king Vee Mampeezy took to social media to comment on how the situation that could potentially spike COVID-19 infections. “As someone who has recovered from COVID-19, I am uncomfortable to see people overcrowding and putting their lives at risk,” he said in his live feed on his Facebook page.

“While we are happy to be returning to the stage as artists, we are also not irresponsible and we care. We should all take responsibility and control the situation. I stopped mid-performance to ask people to wear masks and encouraged them to sanitise but my words fell on deaf ears.”

This could mean that cancellation of live performance may follow. In his national address when the country was exiting the SoE, President Mokgweetsi Masisi warned that should the numbers spiral out of control, the country will be forced to re-instate COVID-19 restrictions.

While interacting with his concerned fans in his Facebook live feed on the possible solutions to help the country’s economy to bounce back while keeping everyone safe, Vee Mampeezy suggested that people should take the jab even though it was not a cure.
“What happed raised a lot of eyebrows and sparked a conversation that is forcing us to deal with the situation,” he said. “We have all lost loved ones due to this virus and I want people to stop the blame game and take responsibility.

“Carry a small sanitiser to use wherever you are, wear your mask and keep the distance. I might decide to stop performing but people will continue to gather elsewhere so we need solutions.”

For their part the Botswana Beverage Association has condemned reckless behaviour displayed by some alcohol consumers over the Independence Day Holidays.
“We strongly urge the relevant law enforcement agencies to enforce the law…We remind all that the end of SoE is not a license to flout COVID protocols and the privilege to consume alcohol can be taken away at any time,” the chairperson of the association, Peter Noke said in a statement on Monday.