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AYOBA MZANSI!

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Vuvuzela fever: Francinah in Soweto

Journalists get a chance to feel it
“Ayoba” is the African slang to get you feeling good when you are in South Africa these days. Ayobaness is how I felt when South African Tourism (SAT) hosted me together with a number of journalists from Botswana and African countries to sample the leisure offerings and catch the Msanzi (South Africa) vibe during the FIFA world cup.
As the country already has an influx of sports media, the SAT wanted to host media who are not necessarily sports fanatics but would rather like to experience the fan parks, sample the leisure offerings and essentially explore and experience South Africa outside of the ninety minutes of play.
It turned out, however that all the journalists were soccer fans and enjoyed a good time of watching soccer from the big screens and I was transformed to a big fan the moment I landed at Oliver Tambo airport on Saturday, June 26. I spent the whole week cheering for my favourite teams and it felt so ayoba!

African Dinner-Johannesburg
The ayobaness started that very Saturday at MOYO zoo lake restaurant, where the guests (me included) were enjoying a traditional SA dinner “in a very African atmosphere.” Real African, for nobody cared about table manners. The atmosphere was filled with songs, vuvuzelas and drumming as we enjoyed a good game between United States of America and Ghana. My colleague from Kenya nearly knocked a plate of rice from the table when Ghana scored the first goal within seconds of the kick off.
It reminded me of the beauty of being African, being so free to use your natural forks (fingers) to pick your food. Drinks were free for us, courtesy of SAT of course and everybody went ayoba.
When the killer goal by Ghana hit the net on extra time a man of Asian origion who had been blowing his lungs out on a vuvuzela hugged me and shouted at the top of his voice, “what ahoba means?”
I did not have a clear answer. I only told him that it is an expression of jubilation, happiness and just ayoba. Shouting the word, helped me break free from the hug and I realized that it was only then that the stranger realized he hugged a stranger.

Ayoba: England supporters in Pretoria

Centurian Fan festival-Pretoria
As guest we used the VIP stands at the centurian fan festival and with its comfort was abundance of food and drinks. We had a whole refridgerator full of Coca-cola and assorted beer and wines at our disposal. Mind you, we were only eighteen, four journalists from each country, which included, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique and one from Angola. Of the eighteen five were ladies, three Batswana, a Kenyan and Nigerian. By the time the game started in the afternoon, drinkers were tipsy. The coca-cola was going slow from the refrigerator because non-drinkers were very few and we were now helping ourselves to steaming coffee as it was very cold on the stands.
Unfortunately there was no written warning on the refridgerator door that the free bottles of beer and wine did not mean it was alcohol free. Probably one colleague would have been saved the embarrassment of throwing up all he ate that day including the seemingly unchewed mushrooms he had for breakfast back at City lodge that morning. I actually suspected he lost the African treat he had at Moyo’s restaurant the other night because otherwise what would have explained the amount of vomit he threw up all the way down the VIP passage to the gents’?
Vuvuzela’s continued blaring from the fans who descended in large numbers at the centurian fan festivals and dancing to live tunes of the likes of Solly Moholo. Whoever said Whites are irritated by the sounds of vuvuzela? They were making the loudest noise during the game between Germany and England and are expects in the blowing field.
By 23HRS when we left Pretoria to Johannesburg some of the tipsy guys were developing ideas. Well as for me I was very tired from the whole day of cheering and doing the diski dance. Although I was not inside the soccer stadium I guess that was the authentic Msazi football experience.

Naked: a statue at the Emperors Palace, losing was not fun

Soweto Tour
I woke up with the trumpet sound of vuvuzela in my head Monday morning. By the time I finished bathing it was way past breakfast. I was to later learn that most of collegues missed their breakfast as well because they could not bring themselves up before 9 am.
South Africa has top-notch infrastructure, good rail and road networks, modern stadium facilities, great food and wine, lots of places for sightseeing and shopping. Although this is very evident the moment you arrive in the country, I was thrilled when I entered Soweto. My thoughts of the township had always been shanty houses and tsotsis but it presented a welcoming sign right from the entry point. Huge concrete vuvuzela stood on the roadside and the sight was so ayoba.
But inside Soweto lays sad memories of the apartheid era when thousands of black people were mercilessly killed by the Boers or Whites. However Sowetans have turned their home into a tourism attraction place and are generating money and surely building the future of the new generation.
Phaphama Initiatives at the Ipelegeng Center has been safely bringing visitors to Soweto for 20 years. It is a non profit oganisation that teaches people in prisons, schools and communities the non violent resolution of conflict. It builds community through community based tourism initiatives, especially in Soweto. Established in 1984 at the height of the political unrest in South Africa to serve as a meeting place for the community to find strength in their solidarity, it still serves as a meditation and comfort zone for Sowetans. It was also the site where the congress of South African trade Unions was launched.
After lunch at Ipelegeng Community Center we enjoyed local gum-boot dancing and interactive drumming. It was all ayoba. That was of course before we proceeded to Hector Peterson museum where sad history starred us in our faces. Pictures of young children some as young as 14 sacrificing their lives to free South Africa to make it what it is today. And this was not ayoba. The power of the media was at play and the impact of the images could be felt as we all got back into the bus.
Vivid history can bee seen at the Mandela House, Hector Peterson Museum, Diepkloof hostels, Walter Sisulu square, Regina Mundi Church and other areas in Soweto.
We headed for the Mandela house, which was a walking distance away. It was not my first time at this place but sadly I always arrive after closing hours.

Game drive: giraffe spotted at Pilanesburg National Park

Sun City and the Game drive
We retired to bed early because the following morning was a long journey to Sun city and Pilanesburg national Park. Although the hosts did not say it I guess when they drafted the itinerary they knew after the Soweto trip African emotions needed a relaxed atmosphere with a splendid experience of seeing, smelling and hearing real animals.
Unfortunately I slip and injured my left foot that morning and it was awfully aching and I had to remain inside the bus after a three hour drive to Sun-city whilst the rest of the crew enjoyed the sight. Thanks to Victor Nze, the Nigerian who massaged the foot afterwards and I managed to join the game drive.

Africa Umoja
While the 2010 FIFA World Cup was deemed the biggest media event ever, across all media stands, be it television, online news, and even the cinema, it is Africa Umoja that made me realize that I am not a soccer fan after all. Probably I was feeling ayoba when watching the history of South Africa from a totally different angle, when Umoja told the tale of South Africa, its people through song. In a two hour breathe taking theatre play, Umoja took us back to the early 70s and relived the energy of Sophia town, infused with passionate voices. The adventure of the gold miners and their intense gumboot dancing that narrated some of the history of South Africa came alive. The song play took on the remarkable journey traveled to the current sounds and dancing of kwaito that make hip hop and rap look like it is standing still. The Venda Snake dance and the fury of the traditional zulu tribal dancing, oh, it was a night to remember and just maybe more than Ayoba!