Monday, 14 September 2015

Bismark Did Not Run with Toni Braxton Cash - NACZ

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe has revealed to Zimbo Jam that, contradictory to the claims published in recent press reports, that one of Zimbabwe's most respected arts promoters and musicians, Bernie Bismark, did not "flee" with $15,000 allegedly owed to them from the recent Toni Braxton show.

The Standard of September 6, 2015 claimed in a dramatic headline that "Promoter flees with Toni Braxton cash" - implying that Bismark, the show promoter, had run away with all the money. However the details of the article explained it was rather money owed to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) rather than all the money from the show.
Bernie Bismark glowing the day after the show with Toni Braxton and Babyface.
The Standard article quoted charges made by Acting Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Walter Mzembi, who told an audience at the launch Peter Moyo's second album, "Mabasa aMwari", on Friday, September 4, that the music promoter had "fled" with $15,000 that was due to NACZ in royalties from the show, and that she had not been seen for the nine days following the concert. Mzembi went on to say that he "would in future refrain from from assisting any music promoters asking for help to bring in foreign artistes to Zimbabwe."

A report in the Daily News followed on Monday, September 7 and took this statement a step further, suggesting Mzembi had called for the arrest of Bismark.

Both NACZ and Bismark have unequivocally denied these claims in separate statements to Zimbo Jam. Contradicting the Standard’s claim that Bismark had “fled,” NACZ Communications and Marketing Officer Cathrine Mthombeni said,

“Yes, Bernie Bismark followed the correct procedures to bring in an international artist... There is a contractual agreement between the two parties that is Bernie Bismark and National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, and we are communicating with the promoter.”

On her part, Bismark responded promptly on Sunday to our questions about her whereabouts and the status of her contract with NACZ. She laughed at the accusation that she had "fled" with money from the show owed to NACZ. She also claimed that nobody from The Standard had contacted her for a comment regarding the accusations in their report.

Bismark told us that she had been in contact with NACZ on Thursday last week regarding the payment of money from the Toni Braxton show, per their contractual agreement and that she is scheduled to meet with NACZ management this week to finalize the payment.

NACZ stated there is nothing out of the ordinary about their work with Bismark on the Toni Braxton show:

“Normally NACZ always receives various requests from promoters when bringing in international artists due to the costs that are involved and the requests are considered on merit. Therefore, the Toni Braxton show by Bismark is no different from other arrangements for international shows.”

There were other dubious "facts" included in the Standard article - namely that the show was "heavily subscribed." Zimbo Jam attended the show and it was anything but "heavily subscribed." Rather, the organizers moved "general admission" ticket holders into the VIP area as it looked too empty. Even with these general ticket holders, the VIP section was nowhere near full.

When Zimbo Jam contacted The Standard to get clarification on the facts in the article, we were told that we should talk to Minister Mzembi if we had any questions; their article was simply quoting him.

This is where the story starts going around in circles. In an email to Zimbo Jam where he was responding to questions about his comments, Minister Mzembi said, "Speak to the acting chief at NACZ, he is the one who wrote to me concerning Bismark."

Then there was a further claim of "fraud" against Bismark, this time from the South African promoter, Canoc Live, involved with the show. As quoted in The Chronicle of September 9, 2015, Canoc founder and managing director, Pleasure Letsaolo, is said to have cited problems with the organization of the show, "...Bismark was unprofessional. She let us down as the tickets which are said to have been sold are not adding up with the money presented to us."

It is not yet clear what the facts are amongst all these allegations. It seems though, that in the run-up to the show the strife between the SA and Zim promoters was in full force long before ticket and royalty money was being counted.