On Wednesday the 18th of March, the Technical Production and Services Association (TPSA) hosted a meeting at the Bryanston Country Club to discuss the way forward for the live events industry in the wake of recent COVID-19 containment measures imposed by the South African Government. These include an assortment of travel restrictions and, most critically, a 90-day ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people. The meeting, produced by MJ Event Gear and EFX Productions, was streamed to more than 900 live viewers on Facebook.

Sharif Baker, chair of the TPSA, described the situation facing the industry as “uncharted territory” and urged all stakeholders to “speak with one, strong voice” on the potentially disastrous impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses.

As well as encouraging companies to use the next three months “productively and compassionately”, by conducting training sessions and sharing assets such as warehouse space with another, Baker’s address centred around four main points:

  • A call to events companies to supply information in the form of forecasted losses for the 90-day prohibition period. Baker explained that these losses should indicate “actual events cancelled, so that an equivalent value can be determined for relief provided by government to [the industry].”
  • Baker’s second please was “to our President to instruct with immediate effect that the banks and SARS suspend all repayment obligations for the duration of the embargo, as well as instructing municipalities the same as regarding rates and amenities. Once we have this in place, it will be easier for us to negotiate and discuss with suppliers and landlords about an amicable way forward through the duration of the embargo.”
  • He also called on those within the industry to “refrain from posting or sharing news that in invalidated” and to stop the spread of “malicious fake news… We don’t need disgraceful memes or unwarranted gossip,” Baker said, and he reminded those within the South African events industry that the whole world is watching how we react to the crisis.
  • Baker also made an impassioned plea for businesses to uphold fair practices in the trying times that lie ahead: “Can we please be civil and mature… in our business practices, in terms of price and salary regulations. Prior to this pandemic, price wars have become a norm that is slowly tearing us apart.” Baker pointed out that, in the end, “the only winner of price wars is the end user, and not anyone in the industry.”

During the engaging question and answer session that followed – which included viewer interaction on Facebook – Baker and the limited audience of events professionals in physical attendance covered topics such as reaching out to banks for payment deferments; the difficulty of ensuring fair practice during desperate times for the industry; the need to give concrete figures to government in terms of contribution to GDP; and the importance of amalgamating freelancer databases, so that these workers are also included in the losses submitted to the Government. They also all stressed the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and fostering a spirit of togetherness within the industry.

“In order to make any of this happen, we need to put aside our differences and speak with one, strong voice. We will the buy in of everyone in unity,” Baker said.

Meanwhile, Kevan Jones – executive director of SACIA – has commented on the COVID-19 containment measures put in place: “As organisations active in the events industry, SACIA, SAACI, EXSA, AAXO, TPSA, CEPA and the Event Safety Council have pledged our support for these initiatives and offer our commitment to work with Government and all other stakeholders in addressing this crisis. We also undertake to collaborate with each other in finding solutions that serve our shared interests, as well as the broader communities in which we work.”

Watch the recorded broadcast here: https://www.facebook.com/SaveEventIndustries/videos/1047255365655837/