Reuters/Joe Penney
South African concert organizers have had to ramp up security to protect against crime.
UNTIL THE DUST CLEARS

One of South Africa’s most iconic music festivals has been cancelled thanks to crime

By Lynsey Chutel

Crime has forced Oppikoppi, one of South Africa’s most iconic annual music festivals, to scrap plans for its 25th anniversary gathering until next year.

“Unfortunately, in 2018 we experienced the rampant crime currently impacting events and festivals across South Africa,” festival CEO Theresho Selesho said in a statement. “For us to present the 2019 event with the increased security measures that are required to curb this crime to present a safe and enjoyable festival, the production costs also increase drastically.”

Oppikoppi did not respond to queries about details on how crime has affected their festival. This isn’t the first time crime has blighted South African music lovers trying to have a good time. Last year, concertgoers who waited hours to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s headline performance at the Global Citizen festival in Johannesburg were targeted by criminals as they left the stadium.

These incidences have pushed festival organizers to take extra precautions. Organizers for Ed Sheeran’s performances last month beefed-up security plans and provided shuttles to and from the stadium. Organizers behind Sam Smith’s show in April warned fans to bring a fully charged phone (for safety reasons).  Oppikoppi’s organizers realized that they would need to do more to protect their revelers.

Oppikoppi, a play on op die koppie in Afrikaans, or “on the hill,” is beloved as a gritty festival that has stayed true to its motto, “in dust we trust,” since its first event in 1994, a band weekend on a farm with two Afrikaans rock musicians and a few hundred people. It grew to attract 10,000 people by 2005 to over 20,000 today. Held every year over a weekend in August on a farm near a rural town in South Africa’s Limpopo province, Oppikoppi’s cancellation is likely to hurt the small economy that has grown around it.

 

Oppikoppi said its “gap year” would not only allow it to ramp up security measures, but also to rethink its direction as a music festival. In recent years, its line-up has grown from primarily white and alternative rock and folk bands to include hip-hop, jazz, kwaito and big names like the late Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi, attracting South Africans from different backgrounds.