Gaborone — Cabinet has decided that all music festivals scheduled between now and December will continue as planned, says Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Olopeng explained that what happened during the recent Gaborone International Music Festival, in which one life was lost due to a stampede, would not be condoned by the country's leadership.
However, he said should a similar incident happen again, government would suspend all planned activities. He added that the leadership was not happy about the criminal activities that occurred at the festival.
He said his ministry was working round the clock to come up with stringent security measures to safeguard lives and property in all stadia, particularly the National Stadium.
He said investigations were ongoing to find out what happened, as there were reports about knife stabbings, rapes and motor vehicle break-ins.
Olopeng said government's response was not out of the ordinary as it valued life, and that the life lost had great value.
He noted that it was government's responsibility to protect lives, and that government also recognised the entertainment industry's potential to diversify the economy.
The minister expressed displeasure that Batswana have turned music festivals into drinking sprees, adding that preliminary investigations revealed that people who caused havoc at the stadium were drunk.
Minister Olopeng also said the organiser would be held accountable for the damage that occured, noting that there was an agreement that the facility would not be damaged.
He, however, noted that the organiser did provide security personnel, but that they were overpowered by the huge number of attendees.
He said music festivals would now be divided into three categories: day, evening and night to try to regulate the entertainment industry.
He said plans were underway to introduce sniffer dogs because some revelers took illegal substances into the stadium.
"No bottles, either of alcohol or soft drinks would be allowed into the stadium because that puts lives in danger," stated the minister.
He said the damage at the stadium would impact on the Independence Day celebrations as well as the start of the BTC Premier League scheduled to start this weekend because the stadium was in a mess.
Minister Olopeng also noted that the National Stadium was a multipurpose facility, and that it was not only for music festivals but for other sporting events such as athletics. He added that the race track and triple jump area needed to be thoroughly cleaned of glass bottles.
Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi said the extent of damage at the stadium was huge.
He said a report by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development indicated that the VIP area was badly damaged, and that the turf was littered with glass pieces and that many chairs were damaged.
Morupisi condemned comments by Batswana on Facebook, saying they were insulting to the leadership.
The two leaders appealed to the media to join forces with government to condemn such incidences as they tarnished the image of the country.