21 February 2018 Read: 163
The annual Marula Festival will again take place at the Impala Park rugby stadium next week Friday. This festival is organized by the Department of Arts, Culture and Recreation in conjunction with the Department of Economic Development and features top national hip-hop artists headlining local performers which attract thousands of fans to the small mining community.
The event has sparked outrage from homeowners, churches and the schools bordering the stadium which is situated right in the centre of the residential area. Though the unbearable noise is a main concern for the residents, the more pertinent matter is the sight of used condoms, empty beer bottles and drunks passed out on the pavements outside the stadium the following morning.
Discussions around the event erupted into a race war over social media with residents from the outlying areas accusing Phalaborwa property owners of being racist. “So the whites were happy that the darkies would be partying it up in the bush and not in their pretty little town. Well, it’s never going to happen...too bad for you!!” said one commentator over Facebook. “Unfortunately you wil have to bear with noise because it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.”
Last year the police and security groups had their hands full breaking up fist fights in the streets, chasing away groups of people drinking outside the stadium with music blaring from the vehicles and picking up those who were too intoxicated to make it home, and simply lay down on the lawns in front of the homes adjacent to Impala Park.
This caused residents to voice their concerns over the festival and insist the municipality and the organizers move the event to a more suited venue. After much pressure from the community, the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism Limpopo (LEDET) issued a statement wherein they announced plans to relocate the event to Ingwe Park outside of town on the R71.
The move will however only take place next year. Though LEDET has concluded their plans for the development of the venue to accommodate the large numbers of visitors, construction will only commence later this year.
“The festival is not all that bad for the local community,” said Manie Kriel of the Phalaborwa Home and Property Owners Organization. “We must remember that there is not one bed and breakfast venue or lodge in this town that is not fully booked during the weekend of the festival. The visitors here spend their money in our shops which is a very good financial injection for us. Yes, the festival will bring with it some bad elements, but that is the case with any event of this magnitude. We have spoken to the local police about all the issues and they have assured us that they will tightly monitor the event this year.”
Not all share that sentiment though. Gert Coetzee, the chairperson of the Phalaborwa CPF said that each year, the festival has him and his team on high alert. “We have our hands full every year with drunk and disorderly behaviour outside the stadium. We don’t have a problem with the festival itself, or what happens inside the venue, but it becomes our concern when the negative elements spill over into the residential areas.”
In the meantime the countdown to the 13th instalment of the annual celebration has started and like it or not, Phalaborwa will have to grin and bear it one last time.
— Joe Dreyer