Farewell Summit Dinner Rocks the Civic Stage

By Lucille Davie

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, September 4, 2002 (ENS) - The performers on Tuesday night at the Nelson Mandela Theatre at the Civic Theatre had their backs to the auditorium. Not because they were being unfriendly, but because their audience was on the stage.

The audience started the evening in the auditorium, facing the stage, but when the curtain went up unusual things began to happen. The stage was set with several hundred candlelit tables. Then the mayor and some of his seated guests were lifted up from beneath the stage on a rising platform, and the action started.


Johnny Clegg (right) and Gloria Bosman entertain with Tu Nokwe's children's choir (Photos courtesy City of Johannesburg)
It was the City of Johannesburg's farewell dinner for the heads of delegations as the World Summit on Sustainable Development winds down and delegates prepare to leave the city.

What the audience sees of the stage at the theatre is just a fraction of the backstage space. The space is huge, and on the night of the dinner was filled with elegant white tableclothed tables and chairs, with bright orange roses and daisies and three candles as centrepieces.

Three cabinet ministers attended - Minister of Home Affairs Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Minister of Minerals and Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Minister of Education Kader Asmal - and several provincial MECs and city councillors, as well as Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa.

It was a fun affair, accompanied by great music, under funky pink light. The Soweto String Quartet greeted guests as they stepped off the elevator at the foyer of the theatre. Afro-jazz singer Tu Nokwe and her children's choir entertained the guests over their starters. The cool sounds of Moses Khumalo and his band made the meal of steak, vegetables, moroga and stamp mielies go down smoothly.

Mlambo-Ngcuka charmed the guests. "In future we'll have Johannesburg +1, Johannesburg +2 ... We just like it that every time you have to say Johannesburg." And, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, "If you venture outside this earth, just send a message to: the mayor of Johannesburg, Planet Earth."

Premier Shilowa, on a more serious note, reminded the guests that "it's one thing to commit yourselves at the World Summit but it's another to implement the agricultural issues when you get back home."


Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa (left) hams it up with Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse
He smiled and said that if guests hadn't been to the Jazz on the Lake, "you don't know what you missed. I suggest you go down to the Turbine Hall and the Horror Café." There is a full programme of music on at both venues.

Then the floor did strange things again. A section rose into the ceiling, and a new platform rose up, with Johnny Clegg and his band ready to rock the guests. It's hard to stay in your chair with that music in your ears. That stage rocked, with dancing, clapping and lots of smiles. Even Mayor Masondo and Premier Shilowa were spotted dancing.

After several songs Clegg invited Gloria Bosman to join him, and they rocked together. Vusi Mahlasela was also on the bill, with his cool, sensuous sound.

And out in the foyer again, the guests still hadn't had enough dancing; Moses Khumalo and his band provided the beat again.

Dancing, music, the best of South Africa's talent - if those guests don't go home with their heads spinning from their dose of South African hospitality, there's no hope for the world.

As the mayor says, "To all of you, please come back to Africa, come back to Johannesburg!"

{Published in cooperation with the City of Johannesburg.}