Former National Social Security Authority (NSSA) chairman, Robin Vela is suing American RnB artiste Joe Thomas for US$1.5 million after the Grammy award winner failed to pitch up for a performance at the former’s 50th birthday celebrations.
The Zimbabwean national who is now based in South Africa was pushed out of NSSA amid a financial scandal running into millions of United States dollars.
Vela allegedly paid Thomas US$75 000 in appearance fees and the celebrity artist was scheduled to play at the upmarket Superbowl at the Sun City Resort in South Africa.
The money also included security costs, and travel expenses covering the star’s 13-member ensemble.
Thomas’ lawyer Gerald Isaac of Gerald Isaac Management Group has already been served with a letter of demand by Vela’s counsel, Eric Fishman, a litigation partner at New York-based firm, Pryor Cashman LLP.
Reads the letter;
As you are aware, Rob Vela hired Thomas to perform at an event celebrating the 50th birthday of Robin Vela.
The event was a one-off celebration scheduled to take place at the Sun City Resort in South Africa on July 16, 2022, and you understood that hundreds of guests – most of which were global corporate leaders and ultra-high net worth individuals travelling from international locations – would attend the event.
You also knew that Thomas was one of the headline entertainers of the event. The parties executed the Performance Agreement on or about February 3, 2022. Under the Performance Agreement, Thomas agreed to perform one concert on the evening of July 16, 2022.
In exchange, Rob Vela agreed to pay Thomas a US$75,000 performance fee, in addition to payment for: ‘sound, lights, back-line, mutual agreeable hospitality, two first class air-tickets, 12 coach/economy tickets, hotel rooms (one 5-Star Suite and 12 King) security, and local ground transportation.
In the event that artist was unable to perform because of sickness or accident, then Rob Vela had the option to either re-schedule or receive a full refund.
You failed to perform any of your obligations. On July 12, 2022, after business hours in South Africa, Isaac called Vela and informed him that Thomas could not travel to the event because he contracted Covid-19.
This was less than two days before Thomas and his entire entourage – including Isaac – were due to arrive in South Africa. Vela asked Isaac to provide proof of Thomas’ positive Covid-19 test, but Isaac refused.
This letter gives you one last opportunity to do the right thing and make Rob Vela whole for the losses incurred. Thus, in order to avoid a legal dispute, we hereby demand the payment of US$368,759.55 by no later than August 10, 2022.
Vela had reportedly paid for VVIP security for Thomas from OR Tambo up to his hotel.
The matter has also been reported to police in South Africa.
Isaac, however, told NewZimbabwe.com that they had repaid the performance fee and were not obliged to settle the other losses incurred by Vela such as travel and accommodation as Thomas did not wilfully breach the agreement. Said, Isaac:
We have paid him the money we owed him. As of now, we do not owe him anything.
We paid on August 15. We signed a ‘force majeure’ agreement with Vela and offered him an opportunity to reschedule the performance. In addition, as a courtesy, not out of obligation – because flight tickets were non-refundable and only credits for exact flight would be issued, I offered that in the event Joe is scheduled or contracted in the future to play or perform in South Africa, I would be willing to work diligently in having future promoters direct the travel budget to Vela.
The bash was attended by big names in the entertainment industry including socialite and host Minnie Dhlamini, MICASA, America’s Got Talent 2019 finalists Ndlovu Youth Choir and American-based RnB group SWV.