Beyonce (centre) will be one of the artists performing at the Global Citizen’s concert in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS
Beyonce (centre) will be one of the artists performing at the Global Citizen’s concert in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS

The State Security Agency (SSA), which battled to vet parliament’s staff and people working for the Zondo commission  of inquiry into state capture, is vetting attendees for Global Citizen’s Johannesburg concert.

In Africa, using music for social justice has a proven track record. Music went to war to help bring peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a band of musicians took to the streets of Senegal to help stop the spread of HIV/Aids and many local artists composed lyrics against apartheid.

The Global Citizen music concert, however, is an online clicktivism event at FNB stadium next weekend featuring Beyoncé and  Jay-Z, Cassper Nyovest, D’banj, Ed Sheeran, Femi Kuti, Pharrell Williams Usher and Wizkid.

The festival organisers say they have invited “the world’s most influential leaders, thinkers, and doers” who will make onstage commitments towards ending extreme poverty.

The Mandela 100 Global Citizen Festival is being presented by Global Citizen and hosted by the Motsepe Foundation in partnership with the House of Mandela. Most of their events are by “invitation only” and music fans had to earn tickets for the concert by doing several “outreach actions” to raise awareness of societal issues.

Journalists who applied for accreditation for the festival received this response: “We have received your request and are hard at work processing all applications we receive as quickly as possible. Your credentials will be vetted by the SA State Security Agency prior to us informing you whether your request has been successful or not.”

Global Citizen says that, because heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and UN officials will be at the concert, it is a site of national security.

SSA spokesperson Lebo Mafokosi says she cannot comment on the methods being used to vet people, the grounds on which attendees will be denied entrance, who the information will be shared with, and for how long it will be stored.

Surveillance specialist Murray Hunter from Right2Know says this is a waste of public resources, and that the SSA’s time would be better spent completing the tasks needed so that the Zondo commission  can do its work.

“The commission almost ground to a halt because key staff weren’t given security clearances. Parliament’s oversight committee had a vacancy in its leadership for the same reason,” Hunter says. “Not so long ago we learned that scores of senior government leaders, including those in crucial security positions, had never been vetted. So how can SSA resources be used for a concert?”

Global Citizen is a controversial Australian organisation launched by a Christian fundraiser, Hugh Evans.  Its slogan is: “We break all the rules.”

Hassan Lorgat, of the Benchmarks Foundation,  is not surprised that the SSA  is so involved with the Global Citizen Festival.

“First the dirty coal of Motsepe and now repression. This is a mainstream corporate sponsored event that does not take a critical view of corporations. It is underwriting a corporate agenda,” Lorgat says.