LOCAL disc jockeys (DJs) this week rejected the food parcels that they were given by the government as part of its efforts to provided them with Covid-19 relief.
Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s office on Monday handed a 12, 5 kg of maize meal and 5kg of beans to 281 DJs in Maseru. But the artistes said while the gesture could have been well-meaning, it was an insult.
Social media has been abuzz with messages ridiculing the government’s gesture.
Local artistes have been stuck without income since the first lockdown in March 2020 when the government closed bar and suspended live performances to arrest the spread of Covid-19.
Although lockdowns were intermittently lifted and re-imposed throughout the year, arts performances never got any traction because Covid-19 infections continued rising.
Artistes have therefore, continued clamouring to be allowed to resume performances so that they can generate their own income.
Disc Jockey Association of Lesotho (DJAL) deputy chairperson, Malefetsane Lenanya a.k.a Dr Gamz this week said prior to the handover of the goods, the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture Lekhetho Rakuoane, promised to assist artistes survive the lockdowns. He said the minister promised that each artiste would get at least M500 in Covid-19 relief.
“We made him aware that we did not need food parcels as we would soon have finished them and start struggling again,” Dr Gamz said.
“Instead we asked for money or to be allowed to fend for ourselves.”
“Although some may be happy because they are desperate, what we received is disappointing. There wasn’t even a soap or any other essentials needed to survive during this time when we cannot work and provide for our families.”
So bad is the situation among local artistes that some cannot afford electricity to prepare the beans they received this week, Dr Gamz said.
He however, said some are so desperate that they do not even have money to purchase electricity to prepare meals. Therefore, it was rather better to allow them to work.
Dr Gamz said they also met with the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) last week requesting that they be allowed to resume shows under strict adherence to social distancing protocols. They also requested that artistes be allowed to cross the borders into South Africa for shows without the need to fork out huge fees to pay for Covid-19 tests.
“We cannot afford the Covid-19 tests which cost at least M800. We get so many calls for gigs in South Africa but we cannot afford the Covid-19 tests.”
They are still awaiting a response from NACOSEC. Efforts to get a comment from NACOSEC on the matter were fruitless yesterday.
Contacted for comment yesterday Rakuoane said he was surprised that the artistes were berating the government’s gesture when their representatives had given him the greenlight to provide the food parcels.
“That is strange because that was an agreement with their committees since last year. I asked them if they were happy to take food parcels and they agreed. The artistes’ committees even gave the ministry the list of beneficiaries,” Rakuoane said.
He said his ministry has been assisting artistes in their engagements with NACOSEC to ensure that they speak with one voice.
“We have given them the support they require whenever they go to NACOSEC. Even when they met with Prime Minister last year, I accompanied them. I have even assisted some artistes to get free Covid-19 tests whenever they were going to South Africa for performances or were travelling for other reasons. They must not view the ministry as the hinderance to their endeavours because we have actually been playing a facilitatory role,” Rakuonae said.
For his part, Tseko Mamonyane a.k.a DJ Tseko said he felt insulted by the gesture and embarrassed by the negative attention the whole episode has brought.
“I have been in the industry for more than a decade and I cannot be seen accepting beans. Maybe some have been in the industry for a year or less and they are amenable to such embarrassing gifts.
“Some of us are even better than the so-called parliamentarians because we work for ourselves and generate money for ourselves. Yeas, the MPs have power now but they cannot treat us like this because we are also voters,” DJ Tseko said.