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.
Surely with an event such as the #GlobaCitizenFestival it’s required of the organisers and city support to ensure safety standards (including for those rigging the set and the attendees) are adhered to all the way through. Not just for VIPs and not only at the start. Come on now.
— Erin Bates (@ermbates) December 3, 2018
It was a catastrophic failure of planning and support. @Uber and the organizers created a perfect choke-point at #Sasol by directing riders to a single, crowded pick-up point. Festival-goers with their phones out, hailing Ubers that never came, were sitting ducks. https://t.co/IIw45reJXL
— Lindiwe Mazibuko (@LindiMazibuko) December 3, 2018
Others were appalled by the apathy of the police that was present.
“Don’t tell me to rush, because im not the one who took your phone” thats the moment when I took out my phone and shot this video at sasol, after two ladies were robbed only for police officer to tell them this after running to them. #GlobaCitizenFestival police were bystanders pic.twitter.com/55dD7H7R0y
— #Under#construction# (@xolane_ndlovu96) December 3, 2018
Security refused to escourt young women through the mugging spot @Sasol during and after #GlobalCitizenFestivalSA. The thugs were stationed there for hours with no police presence. pic.twitter.com/UYK668DBto
— Qiniso Ntuli (@speakwealth) December 3, 2018
@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:
I don’t have the energy to discuss Global Citizen cause I was mugged and I fought off 2-4 men *ALONE* at Sasol garage while your boyfriends just watched.#GlobalCitizenFestivalSA pic.twitter.com/rgupXz4ihX
— Frank Gallagher II (@_nkemelo_23) December 3, 2018
Saw some white guy got stabbed right in front of us and was rushed to hospital. Getting out of #GlobaCitizenFestival was so scary …
— thickleeyonce (@ThickLeeyonce) December 3, 2018
Was harrowing to say the least. It was a nightmare of the biggest proportion. And we were utterly helpless, the horror of it will have destroyed people’s lives forever.#GlobalCitizenFestivalSA #GlobalCitizen #Sasol
A stalk & deeply painful reminder of the crime & lawlessness
— CATHERINE Constantinides (@ChangeAgentSA) December 3, 2018
😭😭😭Just as we were leaving #Sasol to locate our Uber, heard this one guy shouting, “Ekse Sponono, asibangenele la eGarage” Sp: “ya sure, Majita, masbangene” a group of prolly 30 men came out of nowhere to rob people it was chaotic #GlobalaCitizenFestivalSA
— AMANDALA ✊🏾 (@IamSiba_B) December 3, 2018
Wow.. I counted 17 muggings as we waited for the Uber driver. SA 🇿🇦 is fucked up 😭😭😭😭… We were pushed and threatened like nothing infront of @MetroCops and @SAPS and all they were concerned about is @Gautrain buses moving smoothly #Sasol
— ArtSlave (@tebogogxubane) December 3, 2018
Thieves were feasting on people’s posessions . It was BAD . That stampede left me utterly traumatized , scared and bruised . Begging and fighting people off my body on the floor . Wow . #GlobaCitizenFestival
— Zoey_M (@KingZoey13) December 3, 2018
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.
I legit saw thugs trying to rape a young lady at the Sasol. The screams were harrowing, her boyfriend tried to fight the guys off, luckily a crowd of men were able to help them quickly enough.
Sorry in going on about this but wow I can’t believe what was happening. Shaking.
— Zweli Mbhele 🇿🇦 (@TheZweli) December 3, 2018
— Danny Daniel (@Dee_Static) December 3, 2018
To those three White guys who saved us from being mugged and raped thank you so much I don’t know how we are going to locate them but they saved our lives last night. I’m still traumatized only got home at 6am #Sasol
— Vhugala Jamila Khan (@NaVhugala) December 3, 2018
While women presented easy targets for the muggers, men were also attacked and robbed.
Iv seen Tweets of women attacking men for doing nothing during the robberies … fuck we really tried! We were just as much victims as the ladies! #GlobaCitizenFestivalSA
— Siv Ngesi (@iamSivN) December 3, 2018
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.