Minority lobby group AfriForum has released a statement accusing cellular giant MTN of racism for withdrawing sponsorship from an upcoming concert because controversial singer Steve Hofmeyr, who himself has been accused of racism several times, was on the bill.
Last week, MTN responded to calls on social media to pull out its sponsorship of the upcoming Afrikaans is Groot concert in protest at Hofmeyr’s inclusion.
AfriForum has slammed the network provider’s decision in a statement, saying that the organisation has “launched a public campaign over the alleged racist action that is supported by the telecommunications company”.
The statement says MTN pulled out of the concert because it “does not support the personal views of one of the artists performing at the music festival. At the same time, MTN does not hesitate to act as sponsor for the political gatherings of the ANC and the EFF”.
Ernst Roets claimed: “The ANC threatened that white farmers’ land would be forcefully taken away if they did not willingly hand it over to black people and the EFF incites crime against people based on their race. Both parties are also guilty of hate speech against minorities. As it were, MTN admits with this step that they condone the ANC and EFF’s racism.”
AfriForum goes on to say that in a statement on their decision to withdraw, MTN said they “cannot be part of the particular Afrikaans music festival because they strive to bring South Africans closer together and that the company wants to strengthen its brand with the choice of sponsorships that are entered into”.
According to the lobby group, “MTN added that the personal view of only one individual is sufficient for them to withdraw their sponsorship”.
“With this premise, MTN, therefore, declares that they support the personal (and sometimes blatantly racist) views of each individual that is involved with the ANC and the EFF,” Roets argued.
MTN’s Jacqui O’Sullivan clarified that while the company “supports the growth and development of Afrikaans”, and believes “Afrikaans is Groot (AIG) is a great platform to help achieve this”, the company chooses to associate with brands that promote their “image, objectives, and values” and feel the festival’s “continued association with Hofmeyr did not serve those goals”.
She added that the company “will be meeting with AIG this week to discuss a way forward for the sponsorship”.
As for the company’s alleged sponsorship of the ANC and the EFF, O’Sullivan confirmed that the company has made “corporate donations to political parties”, but that these are different to “brand-marketing sponsorships”.
“Corporate donations to political parties, in an election year, seek to support our democracy, which is why parties from the ANC to the DA, the EFF and the Freedom Front Plus have all been recipients of MTN donations, based on current party representation in the national assembly,” she said.
“These donations are not brand-marketing sponsorships, they serve completely different functions and it is incorrect to compare the two disparate activities.”
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)