South Africans kick against Burna Boy's inclusion in the 'Africa Unite' line-up


Local South African musicians and event organizers have objected to Burna Boy’s inclusion in the forthcoming anti-xenophobic  “Africans Unite” concert in the country.

In September, there were reported xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The Nigerian Afrobeats artist said he won’t set foot in South Africa unless the government “wakes the f*ck up and really performs a miracle". He also made threats of violence towards rapper AKA, whom he had previously collaborated with.

However, months after the attacks it was announced (and subsequently confirmed by him) that he would be performing in South Africa. He would be a part of the Africans Unite line-up which hopes to “unify all Africans and speak out against femicide”. The line-up also includes Nigerian-born American artist Jidenna and South African rapper Kwesta.

South Africans kick against Burna Boy's inclusion in the 'Africa Unite' line-up

This announcement, however, has not sat well with South Africans. Made accessible to the internet is an open letter. Written by musicians and organizers under the umbrella of Tshwane Entertainment Collective, it is addressed to the minister raising objections against the concert and calling for the department to pull its sponsorship of the event.

The group questioned the exclusion of artists and event organizers from Tshwane in the process, the lack of financial support for artists from the area, and claims that communities affected by xenophobia are located far from the areas where the concert will be held and cannot afford the ticket prices for the event.

However, the major concern seemed to be against Burna Boy’s inclusion, and the group labelled the event a “financial exercise to benefit the very artists who have our country in a negative light based on false claims”.

The department has however distanced itself from the concert and said that its logo had been used “erroneously” on posters advertising the event.

According to Tshisa Live, spokesperson Asanda Magaqa said: “The Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture wishes to dispel the untrue information currently being spread on social media, that it is funding the Africans Unite Concert featuring the artist known as Burna Boy. It is unfortunate that the department’s logo was erroneously used on the poster advertising the event”.

Asanda said that the department had not allocated or granted funding for the event.

“The department wishes to reiterate that it has not allocated or granted any funding to the event in question and any reports to the contrary are entirely false.”

Burna Boy, meanwhile, has announced he will contribute a portion of the proceeds from the concert to the victims of xenophobic attacks.

As this matter rages on, some South African citizens have called on Burna Boy to keep his promise (not to set foot in the country) while others have asked him to apologize for his comments. AKA too, seemed to toe this line. On Twitter, he has extended an olive branch, demanding an apology. He reminded Burna Boy that South Africa accepted him and his music before he became Africa's foremost Afrobeats artiste.

Ek se ... @burnaboy all we want is an apology. We know ?? is not perfect. But we took you in as our own before you reached these levels. You say you are an AFRICAN GIANT, prove it.

— AKA (@akaworldwide) November 13, 2019

Meanwhile, Julius Sello Malema, the Commander in Chief of Economic Freedom Fighters, has pledged solidarity with Burna Boy.

Looking forward to receiving and being entertained by my brother @burnaboy here at his home called South Africa. There's no mascot that can stop him from performing, he's one of our own and we will protect him. We must resolutely oppose regionalism led by political illiterates.

— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) November 14, 2019

The "Africa Unite" concert has, however, been canceled. Releasing an official statement, the organizers said:

"Following extensive engagement with Burna Boy's management team, Phambili Media and Play Network have decided to withdraw Burna Boy from the Africans Unite Concert. As a result, both legs of the concert which were set to take place on the 23rd of November 2019 at Hillcrest Quarry, Cape Town and 24th of November 2019 at Sun Arena, Pretoria have now been canceled.

The decision to cancel the Africans Unite Concert comes after the call from the Tshwane Entertainment Collective to boycott the Africans Unite concert in Tshwane. With the increasing threats of violence from other unfortunate segments of the public and without any government intervention, Phambili Media and Play Network Africa were prompted to take the threats and warnings seriously, as the safety of all artists and attendees could not be guaranteed. We then decided to cancel the concert. The safety of all attendees, artists, and crew comes first... "

The organizers then took a bold step. Contrary to popular opinion back in South Africa, they stood by Burna Boy in the latter parts of their statement.

"We do, however, stand behind our decision for the initial inclusion of Burna Boy in the Africans Unite Concert line-up. As one of the artists at the center stage of the xenophobic attacks uproar, we saw fit to engage him to be a part of the Africans Unite campaign that aims to ultimately change the current negative narrative to that of solidarity and unity. It seems we have failed in this regard.

As organizers of the Africans Unite Concert, we continue to advocate for unity and peace. Moreover, we condemn any form of discrimination, violence or aggressive behavior towards any person due to their gender or nationality..."

South African artist Sho Madjozi reacted on Twitter, with particularly insightful comments, however, holed-up some sections might be.

It was so clear that the issue of xenophobia in South Africa was being used more as a marketing ploy by the organizers of the “Africa Unite” concert than as a way to effect real change.

— #JohnCena (@ShoMadjozi) November 20, 2019

That was my worry when I declined to perform. Just from the headline act they chose, it was clear that they wanted a controversial figure more than someone, eg Wizkid, who was engaged in the issue in a constructive way.

— #JohnCena (@ShoMadjozi) November 20, 2019

As we got closer to the day, the concert was generating even more hostility than unity and the organizers were doing nothing about it.

— #JohnCena (@ShoMadjozi) November 20, 2019

It's advisable on goes through her entire thread. But Madjozi should be applauded. She's one of the first musicians to constructively engage this matter. She's applied, with good sense, her perspective in an objective way.