Judges left seatless in Sama chaos

Andile Ndlovu and Lindile Sifile

THE SA Music Awards on Saturday night were such a shambles that some of the judges were left without seats.

Ukhozi FM’s Phumlane Mbatha, also known as DJ Sgqemeza, who was part of the huge judging panel, ended up watching the show on TV and on his couch, after being given “the run-around” by organisers.

Other judges included journalist and socialite Lesley Mofokeng and Ukhozi FM’s Zandile Tembe.

The awards evening, which was moved this year from Sun City to Montecasino in Johannesburg to make it more accessible to fans, was a disaster, award winners reportedly taking up to three minutes to reach the stage.

“We [judges] went the extra mile and gave our best, but then we didn’t get the treatment we deserved,” Mbatha said.

He said he had only requested accommodation and a seat at the show, and turned down a flight offer because he preferred to drive up to Joburg, but even that was muddled – new male artist of the year Professor gave up a hotel room for him that he had saved for his sibling.

“Fortunately, I have a place in Houghton, so as show time neared and my accommodation and seat were not confirmed, I just drove back and watched the show on TV,” he said. “Imagine driving up here with no place to stay?”

Mbatha thought the production was “a mess”.

Red Flag managing director Lara Preston – in charge of publicity for the awards – said yesterday: “Everyone has been in panic stations for the past few days. We [Red Flag] got tickets on Wednesday and had to make sure that all 400 invited media got them by Thursday. I hear there were seating plan issues because of possible last-minute guest list additions as well.”

A preview of the chaos at the awards evening could be seen in the months preceding the event.

The nominations party, which was to have been held at The Venue in Melrose Arch on March 17, was cancelled the day before. When they eventually took place (at Montecasino’s La Toscana in May), long queues and a dimly lit and crowded venue spoilt the experience.

On Saturday, signs around Montecasino were poor and created a safety issue. VIPs and fans shoved and shouted at each other, having arrived at the wrong entrances. As the live broadcast began at 8pm, more than a quarter of the people were still stuck outside the newly erected Dome.

Forty-five minutes into the show, people were still walking in, looking for their seats, while ushers escorted guests to the wrong seats.

Samas chief executive Jandré Louw blamed the chaos on the internal ticketing system, and promised it would be “reviewed”.

“We did manage to alleviate the pressure substantially, but unfortunately the big influx of people right at the end posed challenges for us,” he said.

“We had a lot of pressure and demands this year, but it wasn’t that much harder [than Sun City]. It was the biggest show to date, and we had a massive digital presence this year. It’s been a good experience. No regrets.”

Louw said the venue for next year’s awards might be changed again. He was adamant that the move from Sun City was a good decision.

Meanwhile, Durban kwaito singer Professor took three awards: best male artist, best kwaito album and record of the year for Imoto.

However Professor’s win brought some disappointment to Zakes Bantwini’s fans, who had expected him to walk away with at least one golden statue as the two Durbanites were neck-and- neck in popularity and in nominations.

However, Bantwini made up for his loss by giving a performance showcasing some of the moves that got him tagged the South African James Brown.

Former Fort Hare University student Nomsa Mzwai,  with three nominations, managed only to win best alternative music album.

Her debut album, Nomisupa, is yet to hit the shelves because she  has no distributor. She has, however, received huge online interest.

Her sister, Thandiswa, also did the Eastern Cape proud, taking two awards.

Rapper Amu, who was popular back in the ’90s, stunned the house when he won best rap album – beating favourites like Slikour and Tumi.


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