Video claims Papa Wemba poisoned by his mic 'ridiculous'
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After Congolese singer Papa Wemba collapsed and died during a concert in Ivory Coast on Sunday, a video claiming to show evidence that he was poisoned on stage was widely shared on social media. However, it has no basis in reality.
The first conspiracy theory videos around Papa Wemba’s death emerged on Wednesday afternoon, published by a member of the Congolese diaspora. In the most widely shared video, you watch actual footage of the concert while a voice-over highlights (using arrows and red circles) the behavior of a technician who can be seen removing a mic stand and later returning it to the stage.
Out of respect for Papa Wemba’s family, FRANCE 24 decided not to share this video, which includes footage of the artist collapsing mid-performance. The video is still available on YouTube, however. In the screengrab above, the technician accused of bringing a poisoned microphone on stage is circled in red.
The video then shows the moment that Papa Wemba collapses on stage. The dancers and musicians run to the artist, while one technician can be seen running to grab the microphone stand.
The conspiracy theorist narrating the video alleges that this technician is the same man seen previously "removing and replacing the microphone". He finds it suspicious that the young man doesn’t run to the musician, who is on the ground.
The arrow points to the technician, who grabbed the microphone stand while others crowded around Papa Wemba. In 24 hours, the video got 58,000 views.
He then alleges that the microphone was poisoned and that the technician is an “assassin” who killed Papa Wemba. As final "proof" of a murderous conspiracy, he shows a clip of an old interview where Papa Wemba tells a journalist that he sees himself dying on stage one day. The narrator alleges that the journalist was aware of the “plot”.
While the “poisoned microphone” theory may seem ludicrous, there was actually a serious debate about it on Congolese national television (RTNC), which also questioned the behaviour of this technician. Many people took to social media to post comments about the poisoned microphone and the technician. On Wednesday afternoon, there were 300,000 views in total of videos on YouTube with the keywords “poison” or “poisoned” (in French) and “Papa Wemba”.
However, there’s a gaping hole in the theory. The technician didn’t actually bring a new microphone. He just brought a new stand. In footage of the concert, you can see Papa Wemba move towards the new mic stand and place the microphone that he’s been carrying in his hand into it.
Papa Wemba’s manager 'will seek legal action' against the makers of these videos
Papa Wemba’s manager, Marie-Laure Yaone, told FRANCE 24 that she was aware of these “ridiculous” videos but that she refused to watch them.
People told me that many fans are wondering what the technician was doing onstage. My response is that the tech team carried out its job perfectly and respected all of the instructions.
When Papa Wemba is singing, he needs a mic stand. However, his choreographies always involve a lot of movement. He always gave it his all. So the stagehands had instructions to remove the stand when it wasn’t being used so it wouldn’t get in the way of the choreography. Then, they were instructed to bring it back on at least 15 seconds before he needed it again.
This equipment is expensive [Editor’s note: even the most simple professional microphone can cost 500 euros]. The technicians are responsible for making sure that the mics don’t fall and break. It was the same for every venue, wherever Papa Wemba sang.
Papa Wemba was tired. He had been hospitalised in January. Since then, he had undergone two rounds of tests but they didn’t reveal anything in particular [Editor’s note: Papa Wemba suffered from recurring bouts of malaria and experienced periods of chronic fatigue]. But he had already agreed to perform at the FEMUA festival in Abidjan and he wanted to make good on his word.
Papa Wemba’s manager told FRANCE 24 that his family and his team refused to perform an autopsy, contrary to claims made by social media users. She also said she had contacted the Ivorian government with regards to beginning legal action against the people who made these conspiracy theory videos using footage of the concert from Ivorian state television.