The long-running Oppikoppi festival near Northam, Limpopo has been canceled this year, due to crime levels. Picture: SUPPLIED
The long-running Oppikoppi festival near Northam, Limpopo has been canceled this year, due to crime levels. Picture: SUPPLIED

It is not just the musicians and the festival-goers who are reeling from the cancelation of this year’s OppiKoppi festival — the economy of Northam‚ in Limpopo‚ will be devastated too‚ one of the food vendors said on Thursday.

“There are people who sell firewood‚ others that sell liquor and meat. Even supermarkets [will feel the pinch] because people travelling from outside don't usually stock up on what they will need until they get to the area‚” said Hezron Louw of Sumting Fresh. He said his business will also feel the impact‚ as the festival provided a major boost to annual turnover.

“We also employ local people from Northam for the festival‚ train them on food safety and get them on board to work with us. We have had regulars who have worked with us for three to four years, but this year there will be no work for them‚” said Louw.

Attending the festival was not just about the immediate financial gain but was used as a ‘springboard’ to get access to international festivals

The festival organisers issued a statement saying the 25th annual festival had been put on hold after the 2018 event was ruined by criminals targeting attendees. The 2019 event would have taken place from August 8-10 this year‚ but the organisers have decided that the cost of increasing security will make ticket prices too expensive.

“This was a very big decision for us‚” said Theresho Selesho‚ CEO of Matchbox Live‚ owners of the festival‚ on Thursday. “For us to present the 2019 event with the increased security measures required to curb this crime‚ to present a safe and enjoyable festival‚ the production costs also increase drastically.

“By taking a gap year‚ we are giving ourselves the breathing room to redesign the festival and bring in the necessary changes without affecting the festival-goer by increasing ticket prices.”

Safety reasons

Another service provider‚ Justin Melamed of Brohemian Pizza‚ said that while it would result in a “small knock” to the business‚ he understood why the festival was put on hold. “They had to do what they had to do for safety reasons and‚ well‚ there are other festivals‚” he said.

Tau Masemola‚ of Braai Guru‚ said service providers would be willing to help the event organisers to ensure the festival is never canceled again. “As service providers‚ we could have helped because we were unaware of the challenges they were facing. We no longer see ourselves as service providers but we view ourselves as partners and so we will assist in whatever way we can to see the event continue.” 

Masemola said that‚ after OppiKoppi last year‚ the organisers had already started to prepare for their return to the festival this year‚ adding that among their preparations were team-building sessions to ensure that their operations ran smoothly. Besides the people who worked in preparing the goods‚ they had designers‚ promoters and other creatives they roped in with the hope of strengthening their brand at the festival this year.

For Braai Guru‚ attending the festival was not just about the immediate financial gain but was used as a “springboard” to get access to international festivals. They had hoped to take their business to a festival in the Netherlands in 2020.

“So this affects those conversations going forward‚” Masemola said‚ adding that they had met their Netherlands contacts and shown what they have done at OppiKoppi. “But government must assist. The police must come and play their part because this is not just something small. It moved from being a private event to being an event that affects the economy of the province.” 

Louw‚ who takes his business to numerous festivals‚ said OppiKoppi was not the only festival to be taken off their calendar this year. At least one other big festival, which was to be held in Kyalami next month, was also cancelled‚ reportedly also because of safety concerns. “But I hope OppiKoppi will be back. In a sad way‚ it’s a sign of the times.”