Akon cost Zimbabwe tax payer millions
As weary legs trudged out of the National Sports Stadium on Sunday morning, few will take time to reflect on the mammoth cost to the Zimbabwean tax payer of bringing Akon and Sean Paul into the country, which by any measure was not a stroll in the park.
For starters, the five-star Meikles Hotel, where they were booked, cost US$150 per room, whether single or double. With the entourage for either Sean Paul and Akon reported to be around 22 each, accommodation should have gobbled up around US$20 000, assuming they were booked for three nights — from Thursday till this morning.
Lunch at the same hotel costs US$20 per head with supper coming in at the same price, giving a total of around US$5 500. Thus food and accommodation combined to give a total of around US$25 000.
As for the National Sports Stadium, which is currently being managed by the Ministry of Public Works whilst waiting to be transferred into the hands of the Sports and Recreation Commission, the ministry charged 15 percent of gate-takings.
A spokesperson for the ministry said its officials were manning the gates, to tally the number of people who paid to get in. With an expected bumper crowd of about 25 000, the ministry should look forward to pocketing around US$93 000. That is assuming each ticket sells at an average price of US$25.
The stage, lighting and sound system, which was reported to be all state-of-the-art, was secured at a cost of US$135 000, which was confirmed by an official working behind the scenes. Earlier media reports had suggested that the stage and sound system would match the one used by Joyce Meyer during her recent visit.
As for security, the Zimbabwe Republic Police is rather on the expensive side. According to figures made available by the police, it costs US$3 per hour to hire a constable, while a sergeant costs US$4 per hour and an assistant inspector or sergeant-major US$5.
Assuming 100 constables, 50 sergeants and 50 assistant inspectors were hired, this would bring the ZRP bill to around US$17 000, for a 24-hour shift spanning from 6am yesterday morning to 6am this morning.
As for private security details, security companies charge US$300 for 10 guards for 12 hours. With the magnitude of yesterday’s show, around 200 guards would have been hired, bringing the bill to US$12 000. Bouncers are said to charge US$50 per day. Thirty bouncers over four days would gobble up no less than US$6 000.
Though the fees paid to Akon and Sean Paul remained largely speculative, with Karikoga Kaseke, CEO of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority who are in partnership with Zimswag, citing a confidentiality clause, some respected promoters pointed to figures ranging between US$200 000 and US$250 000 for Akon and around US$150 000 for Sean Paul.
Alick Macheso, Stunner, Winky D — in fact all the local contingent of artistes — would come in at a collective total of around US$10 000. What a pity! Then there are the advertising costs, which can conservatively be put at around US$50 000. Printing of tickets can be estimated at around US$10 000. To that add another US$10 000 for sundry expenses.
Thus as thousands of people thronged the turnstiles at the giant National Sports Stadium yesterday afternoon, Tendai Mupfurutsa and his partners, some who have preferred to work quietly behind the scenes, could have spent about US$770 000, which is no small change.
Meanwhile, although many fans, especially the younger generation, are excited about Akon and Sean Paul’s visit, with some describing it as the next best thing since Bob Marley in April 1980, truth is there have been a number of international acts in the last 30 years.
Probably the biggest show after Bob Marley was the Human Rights Now! Concert, which featured Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen and Yossou N’Dour, among other high-profile musicians. Then there was the Graceland concert, which had Paul Simon headlining and Ladysmith Black Mambazo as the supporting act. And it was a three-day affair!
On the reggae front, a number of international top acts have made it into the country, notably UB40, Aswad, Gregory Isaacs, I-Jah Man Levi, Misty In Roots, Don Carlos, Culture, Jimmy Cliff and, recently, Maxi Priest.
Country music has not been left out, as Don Williams performed at the Harare International Conference Centre and later at the Police Grounds, in what was a ground-breaking live performance for him. American soul singer Percy Sledge, of “When a Man Loves a Woman” fame, also came — twice.
During the ’80s and ’90s when rhumba and kwasa-kwasa ruled the roost, Zimbabwe hosted a number of top-of-the-pile artistes, among them Kanda Bongoman, Pepe Kalle, Kofi Olomide, Yondo Sister, General Defao, Loketo and Werrason. Even the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, jetted into the country in 1998, although it was a non-performing visit.
Granted, the Akon-Sean Paul visit is probably the highest-profile gig to happen in this country since the turn of the millennium, which made it a must-attend show.