Roadies To Picket U2 Show

The South African Roadies’ Association says it will picket U2’s show at Johannesburg FNB Stadium Feb. 13 because it claims that several firms associated with the gig are employing racist policies.

E-mail correspondence seen by Pollstar indicates SARA chief Freddie Nyathela believes a picket may be the only way his members can draw attention to their cause.

Nyathela sent an open letter Feb. 4 to the numerous sponsors and service providers associated with U2’s South African shows.

It named promoter Big Concerts, production house Mushroom Productions, labour broker Running Crew and numerous companies in the Gearhouse Group as being companies that have failed to involve black production staff when top acts visit the country.

“The South African Roadies Association intends to mount a picket backstage at the U2 Johannesburg concert venue during U2’s visit to South Africa, to highlight the travesty and affront that such sponsorship and service use support of untransformed companies represents,” the open letter said.

It also attacked telecoms company 8ta, a major sponsor of the U2 dates, and hospitality service provider Warwick Events for being involved with the shows. Both companies are otherwise said to have strong commitments to skills transformation and employment equality.

It wasn’t possible to get comment from U2 manager Paul McGuinness or agent John Giddings at press time.

The threat of a picket is just the latest turn in what The Sowetan called Nyathela’s “silent but raging war.” Copies of the correspondence between the SARA chief and most of the rest of the South African live music business suggests he’s been anything but silent.

Big Concerts chief Attie van Wyk, whose company is promoting the U2 shows with Live Nation, has already had to take legal action because Nyathela openly accused the firm of racism.

Van Wyk and Gearhouse managing director Ofer Lapid deny that their decision not to use SARA crew is based on racist grounds, pointing out that at least half of their workers on any given show day are non-white.

In the last four months, Nyathela’s outbursts have also angered Technical Production Services Association chairman Robbie Blake, after he’d offered to mediate between SARA and the various live music companies.

Blake offered to set up a meeting between all sides and would have scheduled it for January, but that wasn’t soon enough for Nyathela and their correspondence appears to have come to a vitriolic end just before Christmas.

Nyathela looks to have failed in his attempt to set up a skills session between his members and U2’s crew.

The act, which hasn’t played South Africa since 1998, is also playing Cape Town Stadium Feb. 18.

The Johannesburg venue has already had its own production hiccup as last week it was discovered that thieves made off with all its power cables. The FNB released a statement assuring punters that the problem would be rectified long before show day.

Big Concerts has also rescheduled the Kings Of Leon shows that were postponed because drummer Nathan Followill needed surgery on a torn shoulder. The act will play Johannesburg and Cape Town in October.

Other international acts that Big Concerts is bringing to South Africa include Neil Diamond, Rammstein and Roxette.