U2 MANAGER Paul McGuinness last night stepped in to try to defuse a row over racism which is threatening to overshadow the band's upcoming gigs in South Africa.
U2 are playing two gigs in the former apartheid country in the next week, the first time they've played there since 1998. But in an unwelcome throwback to the past, Sunday's show in Johannesburg is in danger of being subjected to a demonstration against discrimination.
The South African Roadies Association (SARA) plans to picket the concert at the FNB Stadium, venue of last year's World Cup final, to highlight what it says is the refusal of big acts to employ black road production crew.
However, in a statement, Mr McGuinness said that in Johannesburg, 97pc of the crew were black, and in Cape Town, 100pc of the local crew were black.
SARA, which represents around 600 mainly black sound and lighting production workers across South Africa, is hoping to bring 200 members to protest at the U2 gig.
"We object to the fact that when big acts like U2 visit this country, the shows are usually put together entirely by white-owned companies," said SARA chairman Freddie Nyathela.
The group claims that big acts do not allow workers from disadvantaged areas the chance to upskill and are normally given low-ranking jobs like stage hand.
Mr McGuinness, meanwhile, said the U2 360 tour had a travelling crew of 196 from 15 countries.
"In every venue around the world, the tour recruits local labour to build and take down the enormous 360 production," the U2 manager said.
He added that they have offered to meet with representatives of SARA to discuss their concerns.