ANC Centenary Celebrations

I spent the whole Sunday afternoon watching the ANC Centenary celebrations in Mangaung. As expected there were some funny, shocking and touching moments. 

The live broadcast on SABC 2 was MC'd by former speaker of parliament Baleka Mbethe. Someone needs to teach Ms Mbethe something about modesty. While the ANC kept singing in jubilation as she was about to officially start with the proceeding, she blatant threatened to get them thrown out if they did not co-operate.

Seriously, she kept screaming “Ayihlale phansi ebambi'umthetho”. When that did not work she resorted to threads saying; “We are not afraid of getting you out. Marshals do you your jobs”

Somebody needs to teach Ms Mbethe some leadership etiquette. Those utterances sounds a tad snooty for a celebration of a 'party of the people'. 

Baleka Mbethe

Then there was that awkward moment when Juju received a somewhat cold reception on the stage as he went around greeting the dignitaries that were already sitting down before he arrived.

A surprise was the cheers that former president Thabo Mbeki, who was unceremoniously given the marching orders out of office, got. While the ANCYL was pretty much sidelined from the festivities, Thibos was very much the prodigal son who was being doted upon by the family.

The ANCYL leaders, past and present, failed to get any mention by name but Thibos garnered few mentions throughout the proceeding. He even carried the ANC flame torch to hand it over to President Jacob Zuma and his deputy.

Then there was the President's long... long... long speech. I did not bother listening to it but from what I hear, he did not mention any of the ANCYL leaders by name in his acknowledgement of members of the party who contributed to its success. He did however warn that ill discipline within the party will be dealt with harshly. 

By the time he finished his speech, the stadium was half empty. I guess people had to think about having to go back to work on Monday, ANC or No ANC.

An awkward moment came courtesy of deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe. While toasting the party's birthday with champagne he said;

“Your leaders will now enjoy champagne. They do so on your behalf with their lips” 

Ok maybe that is no big deal but in a country where the ruling party is known for its corruption and blatant opulence while its people starve, this statement just did not sit well with me. It sort of sounded a bit arrogant. He probably did not mean any malice by it but it just sounded wrong.

The evening was scheduled to end with a live concert but those plans had to be abandoned. Fortunately for us who watched the event on television, SABC 1 had a broadcast scheduled for 20h00 titled Tshihumbudzo.

20h00, SABC 1 broadcast what was advertised as a concert but was more like a Musical Play than that. The production featured some prominent South African musicians and a actors. 

The production got a lot of praise from viewers and sent Twitter abuzz with comments on how brilliant the performances were. I was personally impressed by the actors and the choir. The male lead vocalist practically held the fort throughout the entire - at times upstaging the guest musicians.

The down part of the production unfortunately came from performances by celebrity musicians. Talk about awkward. The performances were clearly geared for a live audience but since there wasnt any, it just exposed the weakness of some performers.

Zahara, poor Zahara. I have fallen in love with this girl after ignoring her since she flooded our airwaves with her massive hit album, Loliwe. She came on stage to perform the classic “Meadowlands” and I cringed. 

She later performed Vusi Mhlasela's hit classic “Weeping” with Ray Phiri. She sounded so bad that I actually got embarrassed for her because I knew the backlash that would ensue on social media after that. Whether you are a fan or not, if you are honest there was no way you could ignore just how bad that performance was. 

She look uncomfortable while singing the song and seemed to mumble the words as she went along. Her voice sounded strained which raised a bit of concern on my mind. Has the singing sensation been overworking herself? 

It is expected that Zahara and her team would want to ride on the quantum leap success of her debut album but could her very hectic schedule be causing a strain on her vocal chords? I have yet to see her perform live so I can not attest to the fact that she is a bad live performer as some people on Twitter claimed, but it was evident that she was not on form on that stage. 

While Zahara got a lot of flack, SABC 1 was getting some much needed praise for a great production. The show was produced VWV Group in association with Blue Moon Communications. It was indeed a great production that could have easily been on any international stage.

What I loved about it is that it did not try and rely heavily on the spectacle. This was simple and detailed yet well planned production that told a story of an iconic organisation. The team behind it made show that the story and performances carried the show and not personalities. 

I suppose in some way, that is why some musicians failed to shine. A lot of time in productions of such magnitude, it is always more about the spectacle than the actual production. Too much emphasis is given to the spectacle and reaction of the audience than the performance of the artist.

Sadly, with no audience and just cameras, musicians just had to gooi but they failed. It was artists like Simphiwe Dana and Judith Sephuma who were able to hold their own. 

The show magnified the difference between theatre performers and concert musicians. Artists like Nomfundo, Ilse Klink, etc who are theater performers were able to give solid performances as they are used to performing without large numbers of audiences and sometimes just in-front of cameras. 

James Ngcobo

A special mention to the production's scriptwriter who was also a stage manager for the show, Mr James Ngcobo. Clearly he is not just a brilliant television and stage actor but he is a man of many talents. 

In collaboration on the scripts with actor Makhaola Ndebele and DJ Grant, they produced a superb script that was able to take us through the history of our country and the ANC with such earnest and flare. Bravo.

Choreographer Greg Maqoma and his dancers, executed their part well too. 

The costume designer took us on a journey without with the music without making the clothes overpower the performances visually. I loved how subtle the interpretations of time era of each segment of the show was. The designs were of the time but with a modern touch. Brilliant visual buffet.

Musical director, Victor Masondo, TV director Eugene Naaido and Executive producer Deana Heslop – a job well done. This was indeed a sublime experience to watch. 

I can only hope the producers for our awards shows were watching and taking notes. Sometimes less is more when executed right.

Last but certainly not least, the anchors of this superb production were the actors. It has been a while since I have seen such superb performances from actors on stage. Tony Kgoroge, what a gem! 

This man's multi faceted approach to every role he takes is something to marvel at. Mzansi's acting talent future is certainly in good hands with him around. 

Nomhle Nkonyeni

I was in awe of MamaNomhle Nkonyeni. Veteran of South African stage and television, the actress after these many years still continues to give solid performances. I can not memorise most of my lines when I do my presenting gigs but she is able to remember what must have been pages and pages of script even at her age. 

She narrated the show, effortlessly relaying the story of our political journey from the formation of the ANC in 1912 to now. I was very impressed. She is a talented woman and a fountain of experience that many young actors could learn from. 

All in all the highlight of the event was definitely the musical on SABC 1 which was actually not live. The show broadcast on the channel was pre-recorded hence there was no audience. The live performance as I mentioned had to be abandoned due to rain. 

Happy birthday to the ANC. Now that the party is over we can brace ourselves for a new flood of drama and controversies. Some American journo is claiming that our President made sexual advances towards her while Julius Malema's former friend is suing him. 

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