It is with extreme concern and disappointment that the SA Events Council (SAEC) noted the blatant disregard of government-issued restrictions by the Event Organisers of the ANC Siyanqoba Rally in Polokwane on Sunday 8th November.
Video footage shows thousands of attendees flouting social distancing regulations, the majority of whom are without masks. We are all aware that events like these create the perfect environment for the super-spreader event – a major contributor to a viral “second wave” – that the government and civil society are concerned about.
It seems the Event Organiser of the ANC Siyanqoba Rally proceeded to host this event without any consideration to the safety of those attending.
In light of the Disaster Management Act, its Regulations and Departmental Directions and the requirements of the South African Sports & Recreational Events Act (SASREA), it seems that the Event Organisers who arranged the ANC Siyanqoba Rally are in contravention of a myriad of laws governing our country under Alert 1 Regulations.
An event where the Regulations are being flouted by having arguably more than the allotted capacity allowable at a gathering and where there is no visual social distancing nor face coverings visibly being worn by attendees, to our minds, constitutes a flagrant disregard of the Regulations.
We are not sure how the ANC Siyanqoba Rally was approved by the Limpopo Provincial Major Events Department of the South African Police Services or by the local authorities. This needs urgent investigation by the agency responsible for COVID-19 enforcement within the province and by the local Police Station in charge of the event.
The SA Events Council has reached out to the necessary authorities both provincially and nationally to determine what went wrong and how this was allowed to happen.
The majority of events and exhibitions are operating under extreme safety protocols and under the constant threat of closure for contravening any Regulations and Directions issued by government, local authority or municipality by-laws for events. All event organisers face being charged with non-compliance both against the Regulations, applicable Directions issued by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture as well as contravening the South African Sports and Recreational Events Act No.2 of 2010.
The fact that this event proceeded while the event organiser of the ANC Siyanqoba Rally ignored their duty of care in keeping people safe by not demonstrating the COVID-19 protocols required to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is in open defiance of the laws that govern South Africa. It further shows the utmost disrespect to an industry in which thousands of jobs have been lost, and many companies have closed due to the restrictions on events in 2020.
We are shocked and appalled that this event went ahead the way it did and was not stopped by the SAPS for being in contravention of the Regulations.
The SA Events Council (SAEC) has been working tirelessly to ensure that the events and exhibitions industry only hosts events aligned with Government Regulations and WHO advisories during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. Our members have engaged with the Government on the protocols required to reopen events safely and through the Event Safety Council, we have written and published Event Re-Opening Guidelines on what one needs to do to hold safe events while COVID-19 is prevalent.
Yet safety regulations are still being ignored, not only by the Event Organisers of the ANC Siyanqoba Rally but by many other organisations across the country. Despite assurances that non-compliant events will be closed down, and that those contravening the Regulations would be brought to book; policing by the relevant authorities seems to have all but disappeared under Alert Level 1.
We implore the Local Authorities across the country and the South African Police Services to either step up and start enforcing the Regulations in place to keep people safe, or otherwise work with private sector in finding ways to relax the capacity and implement protocols that are enforceable and reasonably practicable with Event Organisers taking responsibility for the events they host.
Although the Events and Exhibitions industry contributes billions of rands to the South African economy, we have not been allowed to open reasonably under the current lockdown rules. The current capacity allowances of 250 pax indoor and 500 outdoor are not financially viable and for many Event Organisers, Suppliers and Venues, the capped attendance has kept their doors firmly closed. It is time for private and public sector to work together to find a solution to the current debacle.
The threat of events contributing to the virus’s resurgence MUST be taken seriously by Government, Event Organisers, Venues and Attendees alike; we have no choice other than to continue to work towards the safe reopening our industry.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF SA EVENTS COUNCIL
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