The past 48 hours have been something I would have never expected to happen. An incredible day and evening filled with joy and special memories at the Global Citizen Festival South Africa at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, was quickly overshadowed by the horror and trauma of hundreds of festival goers, including myself. I wanted to write my version of events in a more detailed story after I shared the story briefly in a twitter thread. This has seen me speaking to TV News channels and Radio Stations since the concert. I write this article with deep sadness and anxiety.
— Michael Cost (@MickyCost) December 3, 2018
I attended the Global Citizen Festival on the 2nd December 2018 with 4 of my family members and 2 friends. We had an incredible, once in a lifetime experience. It was beyond amazing and inspiring to see our Local South African Artists perform alongside International greats such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran, Usher, Chris Martin, Pharrell and many more.
The joy and happiness that I felt post the concert was food for the soul. My Family decided to leave the show an hour before the end so that they would be able to bypass some of the traffic. They had planned to take an Uber from the official Uber Pick-up/ Drop-off zone. I was in turn going to Uber myself home but luckily found the two female friends that we came with and decided to travel together as it would be safer and easier.
Once the show had concluded and King Carter and Queen Carter left the stage, I contacted my family and was informed that they were unsuccessful in getting an Uber as the app was not working, the signal was bad and the Uber zone was poorly organised and managed. The 3 of us started to leave the stadium to meet up with my family to move towards the Sasol Garage on Nasrec Road. We decided to go to Sasol as it was a location our Uber driver in the morning said we should use as a pick-up destination. It would be easier for the Uber driver to find us there and vice versa.
As soon as we left the stadium, the joy and happiness I felt was shattered within seconds. We heard people saying that we must be careful as there are criminals stealing phones and bags. There was no signage at the point that we exited to direct us to the Uber zone. We clutched our bags, hid our phones and followed the crowd as quickly as possible. The 2 ladies held onto my shirt and I lead the way. About 2 kms of quickly navigating through the crowd, we arrived at the Uber pick-up zone. I told the girls to wait at the gates while I went inside the collection area to find my family.
The area was a dusty haze filled with headlights shining from every direction. A lady was standing talking to her boyfriend when an Uber driver gently bumped her with his car. Her boyfriend started to share his aggressive thoughts with the driver. I continued moving forward, trying to get through the gridlocked cars around me to get to the Uber waiting area. There were hundreds of people, all seemed lost, defenceless and frustrated.
The Uber officials were trying to barricade the waiting area but people refused to be caged in as they were not able to get an Uber since the signal was not working. I expect the for same reason there was no signal in the stadium and in this zone because there were too many phones in one area. An Uber employ was physically trying to close the exit and when she was not getting her way, moved away and called for security on her walkie-talkie.
I found my family and told them to follow me as we scurried through the cars to get out of this sandy pit. Once fleeing the disaster zone that Uber had conjured, we reunited with my two female friends at the gate. The 7 of us moved across the road to get to the Sasol Garage and this is when things got even worse. Things not only went South, they went North, East and West.
Once crossing the road to the Sasol Garage, we saw a white woman screaming at a group of 3 / 4 men about how the one guy tried to steal her phone. I initially thought this was just another racial incident, a white couple fighting with black men and accusing them of theft. That thought quickly dissipated as we saw the incident escalate and realised that the rumours we heard of people stealing bags and phones were true. We decided to move around this altercation and away from the alleged thieves for our own safety.
Less than a minute later, a group of 6 men ran in front of us and crossed the road, leaving our feet stuck on the tarmac. These men were all fighting over a purple hand bag. One man said to the other, ‘Are you security now’. The next second, we heard a man scream, ‘WHO PUNCHED MY WIFE’. A man was on the floor with his wife who was bleeding and in obvious pain. Instantly, people started to run. If you have ever watched a documentary or video of schools of fish, when one fish moves, they all move in unison. That is what a stampede is like. One sharp jerk triggered the hundreds of people at the Sasol Garage to run.
My group of 7, myself included, didn’t get two steps away when a young teenager and her friend ran up to us asking for help. Her arms were gashed and bleeding as she was pushed into the street where there were moving cars and her phone was stolen. ‘Please help us, they stole my phone! Help us! We need to get hold of my dad! Please help us!’ We couldn’t do anything. What does one do is this situation? A situation where within 5 minutes you witness 3 robberies and you have 6 other people you are trying to get to safety, one of which is a child. These young girls saw family friends, they ran towards them and told them what happened. We decided that we needed to get out as quickly as possible.
Let me paint a picture for you. The Sasol Garage is on a corner of two main roads. There was traffic on the left side of each road. The garage has a large grass area, almost a buffer zone between the street and the actual garage. The criminals had either ganged up together or were a gang to start off with. They were in different pockets around this area. Tormenting the festival goers. It was a buffet and the festival goers were on the menu. They would rob someone and run into the veld across the road and repeat. They were calling their victims ‘orders’ and were looking for ‘their next order’. I have never felt so unsafe, scared and exposed in my life before as I did that night.
Everyone had their phones out, trying to get an Uber or Taxify. Trying to leave and escape. We were too afraid to take our phones out. Once you took your phone out, you were instantly targeted. My group and I ran between the bumper-to-bumper cars, away from Sasol. We didn’t want to run on the pavement as we felt we would be safe being among the cars rather than among the people. Five hundred meters away we found a metro police vehicle parked with two female officers. These were the first security officials we had seen that evening post the Global Citizen Festival. We had not seen any SAPS or private security until this point, 2,5 km away from the FNB stadium.
These women did nothing to help the victims at Sasol. Refused to allow victims to use their phone as they said they had no airtime. People were huddling around this blue light flashing vehicle for safety. Imagine feeling so unsafe that you would stand by a car to feel more secure. We huddled up into a circle to take our phones out and try get an Uber but none of us were successful. We had begged Uber drivers across the road to take us. We told them we would pay R500 for a R50 trip. All of them refused. At this point my nephew felt sick from the extreme stress and trauma. Once he had thrown up and we had seen to him, we managed to get hold of our aunt to come and get us.
There were people running down the street crying, bleeding, and some were even carrying bricks and stones as a weapon of self-defence. We quickly moved 1,5 km away from this point, down the road until we found my aunt. That brought the total distance from the stadium to the car to 4 kms. All 8 of us crammed into the car and escaped. We were the lucky few who got out unharmed and without anything of ours being stolen. When we arrived home, all I could think about was all the hundreds of people who were still stranded at Sasol. All the people who were injured, burnt with cigarettes, physically assaulted, stabbed and were victims of robbery.
After a few hours of sleep, I tweeted our story and have been inundated with replies, other people sharing their stories and questions. I have spoken on 3 radio stations and a television news channel. ‘Why didn’t we stop and help’ is a question a few people have asked me. It’s comes down to two reasons: In that moment we had to escape and look after our group of 7 people first. We had a child with us that we were all trying to protect. Secondly, the decisions that we made were the best decisions in that moment.
The saddest part, for me, is how this aftermath destroyed an incredible concert, a concert aimed to create tangible change in the world. A concert that advocated for Gender Equality, the empowerment of the girl child, the end of gender-based violence and the violence against women. Yet, the main victims from the Global Citizen Festival aftermath, were mainly female. Will women ever be safe in South Africa?
The saddest thing is how #GlobalCitezenFestival advocated for Gender Equality and Safety for all women and yet women were the biggest victim of last night's trauma at #Sasol. #GlobaCitizenFestivalSA #GlobalCitizen how are you going to help those who were affected?
— Michael Cost (@MickyCost) December 3, 2018
Let’s also look at the materialistic side of things. Due to the concert having bad signal and little to no Social Media posts could be made at the stadium, many people took photos and videos on their phones to share later. If your phone was stolen, you not only loose those memories and moments you can never get back but you also lose your contacts and your way of getting home. If your bag was stolen, you lost your money, your ID, your bank cards and more. The frustrating and unnecessary procedures to cancel these things or get new ones is an inconvenient nightmare.
Post the night of horror:
I, by fate, met the couple that I witnessed getting robbed, the ‘who punched my wife’ couple. I was walking into the Booysens Police Station, this is the police station that the Stadium and surrounding areas falls under their jurisdictions, when a couple walked out. I immediately recognised them. Heema and Adrian were on their way to the Johannesburg Magistrates Courts to open up their case and asked me to join them as an eye-witness.
We later returned to the police station to open the case and have our statements taken. Heema and Adrian looked defeated but hope and happiness had not left their eyes. I’m glad to have cracked a few jokes with them to help get a smile and to be positive for them.
With the 2 victims at the Courts, Heema & Adrian. If you are an eyewitness you can write an affidavit at a police station preferably at Booysens Police Station & share your statement online or email so that the victims can use it to help their case. #GlobalCitezenFestival #Sasol pic.twitter.com/Esu3xe9KDV
— Michael Cost (@MickyCost) December 4, 2018
This is my plea to all the festival goers who were either victims or eyewitnesses. Go open up a case. As an eyewitness, go write an affidavit or write your version of events in an email, send it so there’s a date on the email and share a screenshot of it online. The victims will be able to use your statement in their case in court and be able to contact you as a witness to their case. Sharing my story and the stories that others have shared with me, is my way of helping. I might not have been able to help those during the chaos but I want to use my platforms now to help them.
I am beyond thankful for the support I have received over the past 48 hours and I am thankful for all those who have shared their stories with me. We survived a horrific, traumatising event. I haven’t shared any good stories of the festival as it’s been eclipsed and elapsed by the aftermath of the Global Citizen Festival. Feel free to continue to share your stories in the comment section of this article.