The Global Citizen Festival that took place in Joburg on the 2nd of December was part of a worldwide commitment to end poverty, improve conditions for women and children, and increase access to education, among other goals. The night ended in violence and terror for many people who were mugged while waiting to leave the event, and the irony is striking.

The irony: no good deed goes unpunished? 

The majority of the tickets were not for sale, but could be won by active citizens who pledged their commitment towards the Global Citizen’s objectives. In South Africa, violence is one of our biggest social issues; and this formed the basis of the alignment of the Global Citizen Festival with the Graça Machel Trust. The show was also meant to be a way of celebrating togetherness, and of encouraging all citizens to take up the mantle of change and not leave it to formal organisations such as governments and NGOs. When UN Women executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, endorsed the concert on behalf of the Graça Machel Trust, she specifically said, ‘Everyone has the right to live their lives without the threat of violence.’ The violence that erupted after the concert also took place right in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Intellectually, this should not come as a surprise to me. Statistics are published every year reminding us just how violent our society is. And while there are marginal decreases in our crime percentages, the Global Citizen aftermath shows that a marginal decrease is far from a downward trend in crime. If anything, it seems that criminals have become more strategic in their approach.

So where did it all go wrong?

The City of Johannesburg and the FNB Stadium in particular are not strangers to organising large-scale events. After successfully hosting the FIFA World Cup and other 46664 Concerts, it’s clear that it is possible to ensure the safety and security of the attendees of events of such scale. So how were the concert-goers so poorly protected? It seems to be a perfect storm of poor scenario-planning by the concert organisers, completely inadequate planning and co-ordination by Uber, no disaster management structures put in place, and inexcusably bad performance by the South African Police Service officers on duty.

Some people blame the organisers for their inadequate security coverage.

Others were appalled by the apathy of the police that was present.


@JoburgMPD where were you last night AFTER the #GlobalCitizenFestivalSA when people were being mugged & harassed by thugs?? You were everywhere BEFORE the show to ensure no one without access got in – but AFTER?? #Sasol

— Leanne Manas (@LeanneManas) December 3, 2018

Irrespective of how it happened, the reports were harrowing:

The only bit of silver lining was the way that some of the men stepped in front of women to protect them during the attack.

While women presented easy targets for the muggers, men were also attacked and robbed.

It was a horrific experience for all who witnessed and experienced the anarchy. What started off as a way to bring people together to end violence, ended up being an opportunity for violence to take place. Opportunistic, violent thieves targeting an event is symptomatic of how severe our other social issues still are, and why the Global Goals are still important ideals.