MASERU — It was too good to be true.
Ne-Yo, Tamia, Anthony Hamilton, Faith Evans and India Arie, among many other top American artists, in Lesotho!
On paper it was supposed to be the biggest musical show in Lesotho’s history.
Or maybe in southern Africa.
Or better still in Africa.
Little-known South African promoter, Gilbert Molisalife, claimed he had managed to persuade 10 top American R&B artists to perform in Lesotho at Morija yesterday.
Molisalife, who said this was going to be his “first international show”, appeared to have hit a jackpot.
Dubbed the Lesotho International Experience, the gala’s impressive line-up also included Kelly Price, Sisters with Voices (SWV), Talib Kweli, Smokie Norful and Carl Thomas.
“ . . . And many more,” declared the glossy poster that only appeared a few days before the show which was scheduled for December 18 to 20.
The poster said tickets were available through Computicket at Checkers and Shoprite but did not mention the cover price.
But details are beginning to emerge that this could have been one of the biggest frauds in local showbiz.
Investigations point to what could be a well-planned deception to cream off innocent Basotho of their hard-earned cash by luring them with promises of international artists.
The Sunday Express can reveal that there never was a concrete plan by the organisers to get the show going apart from the promises and the posters that they issued a few days before the gala dates.
By Tuesday Molisalife was struggling to sustain the claims that were on his poster.
First he said he was cutting the number of artists because “both the technical production and the site were delaying”.
But he did not say which artists he was dropping from the show and what type of technical production “delays” he meant.
When the Sunday Express called him on Wednesday morning he was still insisting that the show was going ahead as planned but he had reduced the number of artists.
Then, barely four hours later, Molisalife made a dramatic U-turn and said was he postponing the show.
By that time a number of people had already bought tickets, ranging in price from M300 to M490.
His reason was the same: “Because both the technical production and the site were delaying.”
He persuaded officials at Ultimate FM to squeeze him into the station’s 3pm slot to explain why the show was not going to happen.
But the Sunday Express can reveal that all this could have been a hoax.
Molisalife did not have contracts with any of the international artists that his poster announced would perform at the gala.
The Morija show did not feature in any of the artists’ schedules nor did it appear on their official websites.
Most American artists are booked months in advance.
Contracts, too, are signed months before the show date.
Yet by his own admission Molisalife had by the time of cancelling the gala not “signed some of the contracts”.
He however insisted that some of the artists had signed contracts but did not specify who.
“I am not in a position to say who had signed what,” said Molisalife from Bloemfontein.
But when pushed further Molisalife “improved” his story slightly.
“Some of them had agreed and we had their contracts but there were still some technical issues to do before they got signed,” he said.
When pushed again Molisalife amended the story, again ever so slightly.
“For some of them (contracts) we could not meet some of the conditions and specifications,” he said.
“Even if we wanted we could not have met them.”
But the question is which international artist’s conditions did the organiser meet?
It seems none according to investigations by this paper.
Most of the international artists have extremely high standards and specifications for their accommodation, stage set-up and lighting, venue, food, band treatment and many more.
They all want to have their people assessing and approving the stage before they perform.
The hotels that the promoters book for them must be of a certain standard.
If you cannot meet the basic industry requirements then there is no contract.
Molisalife, the Sunday Express has established, could not meet even the barest minimum of these standards.
As early as two weeks ago, sources say, he was already complaining about how difficult some of the conditions were.
Yet by December 16, two days before the show, Molisalife and his group had not started putting up the stage.
Asked at what point he discovered that they were not ready for the show Molisalife said “Wednesday”.
He blamed other things for his “failure”.
“The marketing was just not right. We only started later. There were no radio and print adverts,” he said.
“We lost many sponsors at the last minute as well,” he added.
Molisalife said he had not organised any major international show but he claimed that some of the people he was working with in his company, Moetsi Media, had “five and 10 years’ experience” in the business.
Investigations revealed that when Molisalife and his team approached the Morija authorities they made big promises.
Sources said they told the Tebang High School authorities who own the ground they wanted to use and Morija Museum who owned the infrastructure at the ground that the show was fully sponsored to the tune of about R18 million.
This was around five weeks before the show, a source said.
The authorities are understood to have first rejected them but they came back pleading that they had made some commitments with Computicket and they had contracted the artists.
They also promised that they will have workshops to train local businessmen on how they could benefit from the show and how they could stage events like that in future.
The authorities had relented but sources said they still had some lingering doubts.
“There were no papers to prove all these claims and that is why the Morija Museum authorities decided not to get very involved,” said a source close to the issue.
“It looked too good to be true but there were still doubts.”
But the authorities still decided that there could be a potential to benefit in the long term.
“For using the ground they were going to help develop the school’s science laboratory. For the infrastructure they were going to help develop a library for the community in Morija.”
Computicket and Shoprite confirmed with this paper that they had already sold some tickets.
Molisalife claimed that he was going to phone people who had already bought tickets today.
“We are going to refund each person who had already bought a ticket,” he said.
“It is a manageable number that will be refunded before Christmas.
“We will call Computicket tomorrow (today) to ask them for these people’s numbers.”
It seems though that anyone who wants a refund will have to wait for Molisalife’s call because Computicket’s policy is that it does not refund for shows that have been cancelled.
“No refunds or change of allocations of tickets will be allowed,” Computicket’s website says.
Molisalife’s Moetsi Media company is an unknown entity in South Africa’s show business.
“I have never heard any mention of that company here until they started promoting this show,” said one prominent promoter from Bloemfontein.
“We were all suspicious about this show because it’s like nobody knew about it until last week.”
So what does Molisalife, the man who claimed to have the backing of huge sponsors pouring R18 million into his show, look like?
Well, his grey trousers had a visible hole between the thighs.
His shoes looked worn out and his car was battered.