Thursday, 21 February 2013

Rock and Royality in South Africa

I wonder how many people know that after World War II the South African government had offered Britain a substantial sum of money to aid efforts to rehabilitate the youth of this country, after the trauma of war.

Now about to embark on her first State visit to South Africa since 1947, following the end of apartheid, the British Head of State reciprocated the gesture.  A sum of money from the King George Jubilee Trust was put towards the rehabilitation of South African youth, who had been displaced and severely disadvantaged by decades of living with apartheid.

The ABSA Group, the former Amalgamated Banks of South Africa, matched the British contribution and the Nation’s Trust in support of youth enterprise was born, backed by the UK-based Princes Trust.  An ABSA manager and I became 'managing trustees' for this joint British-South African project.

So there I was at KwaZulu Natal in April 1995 when the Royal cavalcade swept into the school at Umlazi TownshipOn that day the heavens opened and it seemed that all the water in the atmosphere simply cascaded on the school district. 

Face-saving and impromptu infra-structure was hastily put into place, along with Royal Umbrellas. Somehow, as if by magic, Her Majesty side-stepped the mud-bath that was now the courtyard where the Royal party and dignataries would be seated for the afternoon's entertainment provided by the various artists and children representing the Zulu nation.

At one point in the proceedings one of the benches, on which sat accompanying members of the Royal Household, appeared to tilt and threatened to tip over. Thankfully someone saved the day.  An official commented on the state of the drainage. Without missing a beat, and in low quiet voice, the headmaster said that drainage in townships had not been a priority for the former apartheid government.  No, thought the clown with  amusement, the apartheid regime had definitely not bargained for the day when British Royalty would turn up at one of its bantustans. The Universe has an outrageous sense of humour.

An extraordinary experience, and one I am unlikely to have again in this lifetime, was to be an integral part of the team organising the Two Nations in Concert  event to raise funds for the fledgling Trust. 

The concert held in November 1997 at Johannesburg Stadium was attended by the Prince of Wales and his youngest son and the then Deputy President of South Africa Tabo Mbeki. It featured a medley of British and South African artists. For the first time ever I heard live on stage amazing South African musicians, including Lucky Dube, Brenda Fassie, Yvone Chaka Chaka, and Rebecca Malope. 

I have to say though, the highlight of my time in South Africa was meeting a Sangoma, a witch doctor. The Sangoma told me what the immediate future held for me. Well that is definitely not happening, not in this life time I thought. But this particular Sangoma was spot on.  I chuckle every time I think about it.  It was just brilliant, and as I look back down the last 19 years, life turned out exactly as predicted.


Related Post: Back to Africa

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