Somizi Mhlongo is entangled in a bitter row over his choreography services in Botswana. The celebrity dancer, choreographer and Idols SA judge was allegedly awarded a half-a-million pula deal to direct the country's golden jubilee celebrations to be held next month in the capital, Gaborone. The country had budgeted 100million pula (about R130-million) for the celebrations, appointing a committee with the name Botswana50 (Bot50). The committee has recently been accused of corruption and favouritism in the award of tenders for events linked to the celebrations. The country's anti-corruption unit, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), has now been roped in to investigate the tenders. But the latest scandal to rock the country would be Somgaga's P500000 gig for the two-day event.
This is not the first time Mhlongo has been booked to choreograph a major event in Botswana. He was also brought in to facilitate the opening ceremony of the Africa Youth Games in May 2014. Sowetan can confirm that Mhlongo was not contracted by Bot50 but rather by Red Pepper PR and Consultancy agency, which won the P14-million tender to procure the dance and theatre productions for the celebrations. Batswana dancers and choreographers complained they were being sidelined. "I don't doubt Somizi's capabilities and talent, but when we're told this is time to celebrate us, as Batswana, then why hire a South African for the job? We can do it too," commented one of Botswana's top choreographers, who refused to be named. Another protested: "Bot50 promised they would hire only locals, why were we overlooked this time around?" "Could a Motswana have been paid that much for the same job? That is my question," said another local.
Efforts to reach Mhlongo were unsuccessful at the time of going to press, but his Instagram profile shows that he is excited about the event. He posted: "... this brings so much joy to my soul. Spreading and sharing my talent with the continent. Botswana has talent. Day 1 dance workshop for #bot50." The Bot50 committee held a press briefing on Thursday in Gaborone. Fielding questions from the media about Mhlongo's appointment , Bot50 coordinator Charity Kgotlafela was quoted as saying they had nothing to do with Mhlongo's appointment. She said all Bot50 tenders were awarded to local companies just as they had promised from the outset. However, she said Bot50 did not have control over who these companies engaged, just as long as they got the job done. Efforts to reach Red Pepper PR and Consultancy agency failed.