We have been planning a very special festival called Weedstock since November last year.
On Thursday afternoon at 2pm, 20 hours before the gates opened, we received an email from the SAPS to tell us that the last piece of permission – one signature – would not be granted. If we proceeded with the event it would constitute a criminal act and the organisers would be arrested and face a large fine, imprisonment and confiscation of the equipment hired for the event.
It was this last threat that led us to make the extremely difficult decision to cancel. Hundreds of thousands of rands worth of equipment was already at the venue and we couldn’t take the chance with other people’s property. We have been accused of giving up too easily. Walk a few steps in our shoes and you will know that we tried EVERYTHING. This is how the events unfolded:
- In January we had to postpone the event because of problems with the venue in The Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg. A mysterious petition against the event surfaced a few weeks before. The local police declared the road outside the venue to be “medium risk” and escalated the permission procedure to provincial level, making it impossible to get the signoff in time.
- We moved the event further out of town, to a farm outside Bronkhorstspruit. The owner of the venue assured us that he had hosted several music festivals, the latest being a trance party in November last year. The organisers of the party had been to the local municipality who were not interested in events for under 2000 people and were assured that no permissions were necessary. The owner assured us that no permissions were necessary for the event on his private land and cited the Ramfest event in 2014 attended by 18000. We paid him in full to secure the venue.
- HOWEVER, because of our experiences in the past, we prepared all the documentation we usually do and hired the necessary security, medics and equipment in line with standard procedure. We prepared a 63 page document to have ready at the door should the police rock up unexpectedly.
- On Monday afternoon the Bronkhorstspruit SAPS phoned the owner of the venue to say that they had seen the event on Facebook. They believed that 16000 people were coming because of the “invite” numbers on the page. At that stage we had sold 400 tickets.
On Tuesday morning Myrtle & our safety officer went to see the station commander. She showed us a Facebook screen grab from when the event was still called “Weedstock in the Cradle” – 7 weeks old.
- We immediately took our 63 page document to the office of the Tshwane municipality in Pretoria. The director of events looked through the documents and approved everything on the checklist. He added a few things that were not on the official checklist but we were able to provide these later that day. The only thing that was missing was ONE signature from the SAPS to categorise this as a “low risk” event, in keeping with all of our other events, even those where we hosted up to 5000 people.
We took the form back to Bronkhorstspruit where the station commander told us it had to be signed by a colonel in Johannesburg. We sent it straight through to him. Julian tried to speak to him on the phone and he claimed that we had to apply for this event 6 months in advance. We had never heard of this and this is the same colonel that attended our D.Day 4.20 event in 2014. Julian tried to ask some questions but he put the phone down.
By now it was Wednesday. After a sleepless night, we contacted every person we could to resolve the issue but we failed. Sorry.
“The event was cancelled due to it being tripped up by a relatively new law (at least the enforcement thereof, the Act itself having been promulgated in 2010). The relevant Act being the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, 2 of 2010. This Act was necessary to ensure safety at primarily “Sports” events i.e. think football hooliganism and major sporting codes, rugby, cricket, motorcross etc. However it is drafted in a catchall sense to include religious and cultural events (which thus makes it fairly broad and applicable to any event). The enforcement of this Act is not applied consistently and certainly leaves more questions than answers. I would attribute no blame to Fields of Green for All or the organisers since they communicated with the relevant authorities and were only advised of this extra, and indeed crippling, new requirement at the 11th hour. I would not proffer speculation as to the reasons why, but it leaves much to question.”
We have legal experts weighing up our options at the moment. If we had to apply for this event 6 months in advance, why didn’t they call us when they took the Facebook screen grab 7 weeks ago?
How do political parties get permission to hold marches for thousands of people within 24 hours?
If there is any chance that a sinister “third force” is at play here, we will continue to make it clear that, as The Trial of the Plant approaches, we will not be deterred if this is a signal of how the authorities intend to fight.
On Friday evening 16 members of the SAPS arrived at the venue to try and catch us out. On Sunday morning there were still road blocks with dogs and guns on the road into the venue.
We are exhausted and disappointed but not defeated. We have always operated with integrity and despite some seriously ugly accusations on social media, we know that the vast majority of our supporters will see us through this difficult time. Now, more than ever, we need your support. This is truly about what is right, about the type of country we want and it is not only about our favourite plant. We can win this and together we WILL.
Thank you for your understanding.
“The secret to success is stumbling from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” Richard Branson
ALL TICKETS ARE REFUNDABLE at www.ticibox.com. By the time we cancelled we had sold 548 tickets. Thank you to those who have offered to forego a refund so that we can cover some of the costs incurred. Refunds are available until 11 March 2016.