“THE WEATHER is behaving”, sighed the man in busybody mode, clad in a branded sleeveless jacket and brandishing a walkie-talkie in a hand.
He was understandably relieved because it had rained overnight before the latest instalment of his outdoors event on the grounds of a cricket oval in Elkah, Soweto.
He answers to the identity of Sidwell Tshingilane as he does to the encouraging status of being the conceptualizer of one of Joburg’s calendar crowd-pullers!
The sunny and warm weather was an encouragement per se, given that, being a Saturday, it was the first day of his hosting festival-goers – with another day still to come. The forecast turned out to be sport as the heavens, in spite of clouds about, held their peace, even on the Sunday – with Mother Nature giving thumbs up to the third happening of the Sasko Soweto Kota Festival!
Branching to a new venue, and a suitable one at that, and on evidence of the multitudes who flocked to the occasion, with a lengthy queue spotted snaking around all of a neighbourhood block at the Rockville location whilst the stadium was already teeming with revellers inside – Tshingilane’s party is ever growing and his stakeholders such as title sponsor, Sasko, Tyme Bank, Parmalat and Renault, must had been pleased with the community voting with their presence and enthusiasm.
Come they did, with families and visitors of all ages, from some in prams and others bringing along camp chairs to support the myriad of vendors (strutting their stuff from some 80 stalls) who cooked up a storm over two day at an event so well organized with ample parking and round the block security.
A huge stage churned out sonic delights by artists ranging from Gigi Lamayne to Jozi FM’s DJ Prince. Observing the symbiosis on display, it was clear that sheer will-power does get things done!
Every hand was on deck, dairy entity, Parmalat supplied cheese slices to all vendors (as it had done in the past two years) A media release issued by the company described the gesture as an initiative forming part of the brand’s successful Phuma Phambili, a 2015 launched project geared to engage fast food and retail outlets by enabling township start-ups and vendors to get a much-needed competitive advantage – with its goal being to support and promote entrepreneurs and small businesses in the considerable informal South African food market.
Six months young financial institution, Tyme Bank (who invested around a million rands towards the marketing of the festival) had a Wi-Fi-powered kiosk from where personnel busied themselves with a concerted recruitment drive of new clientele. Offered their marketing officer, Luisa Mazinter, “We are so happy to be here!” She added that for the new fastest growing player – presently standing at around 700 000 clients – its investment was bigger than just a two-day event.
Another partner, Renault (who provided the organizers with a jalopy for business use) had some of its latest offerings on display amongst the crowd.
The French vehicle-maker’s General Manager of Communications, Sithabile Maphumulo, described their coming on board as “a monumental partnership” and mentioning that they held fifth position in the local car market share, invoked their slogan declaring that theirs was a provision of synergies borne of a passion for life! The Vava Voom representative mentioned that her entity was also sponsoring a restaurateur with a whole year’s usage of a vehicle.
The Sowetan newspaper’s Jabulani Mkhize noted being awed by numbers projections which has the event already accounting for some 20 000 visitors flocking to it in a matter of three years.
“The event talks to aBantu – we talk to aBantu”, continued Mkhize, adding, “We will continue to be together” as an undertaking to Tshingilane and whilst also revealing that his publication would give exposure to the winner of an annual competition conceptualized to discover the best Kota at the festival.
Another role player at the lifestyle event was Oya Sweets, a 100% South African brand of all things chewy and which provided the essential kids zone. Manned by its Brand Manager, Prince Manyamalala, the space was understandably a hit with the young ones and the entity had a hosts of activities lined up for them – from a jumping castle to a PlayStation zone and chess game boards provided by Tinogana Chess Hub.
According to the friendly Manyamalala, his entity’s participation was not just about the irresistible goodies, but had at its intent, an aim to teach children entrepreneurship whilst still young by making them appreciate the viability of a basis such as selling sweets! Looking out at the hive of excited activity all around, the suitably impressed soul volunteered, “We are happy and coming back next year!”
At the title sponsor’s hospitality stretch tent, Sasko’s Senior Brand Manager, Jackie Pillay hosted jolly VIPs who were fed gourmet Kotas prepared by a sizeable team of chefs who had set camp in an adjacent tent.
Waiters kept to-and-fro from the pop up kitchen to the temporary lounge area from where the 1930 established bakery’s guests feasted and imbibed on beverages served up at two wooing bars! Formal as it was, yet that was the place to be at and seen – with notable guests including the incumbent Miss Soweto, Nokukhanya Kunene.
Evidence of the bakery’s financial muscle was also in the form of its provision of even a VIP kid’s zone manned by tutors. Ensconced between the bars, young and verve-filled Chef-de-Cuisine, Katlego Mlambo lorded over a kitchen, periodically giving Kota-cooking demonstrations. Within reasonable preparation time, he whipped up an appetizing Kota creation named, ‘Last Number’ which was stuffed with a base of chips, grilled chicken, grilled tomato, polony, Vienna, egg, atchaar, mushrooms, avocado and chili sauce.
Flourishing the presentation with a white-toothed bon a petit smile for the camera and bloggers!
It was Mlambo, whilst also wearing the cap of a judge, who along with Pillay and Collin Mkhize who determined the winner and runners-up of an annual competition with a prize breakdown amounting to R45 000.
The main prize went to a stall named Kubs Chili with second and third spots claimed by Rocktown Deli and Zikipani, respectively!
Under just the ideal atmosphere, the 80 stalls did a roaring trade, with the starring food item not coming cheap whilst retailing for upward of R100!
The gathered epicureans, with various winding queues spotted all around the grounds, didn’t seem to mind the prize tags though, as their curiosity (more than their hunger, one suspected) led their pockets. They appeared to have Pillay’s exhortation “not to forget the amazing food” in mind as they never mindedly splashed on the creative fare! Everywhere you looked, ‘twas a food lover’s paradise!
Under branded gazebos provided by another sponsor, Harvestime, vendors toiled all the way up to the evening packing up time over the allotted two days. The lexicon got new twists on menu names such as Zodwa, Sugar Mama and Slay Queen, etc. Chicken feet also featured on the fare!
Impressively the economics of the festival had an equilibrium to it, with various cocktail bars vying for visitors attentions – and their offering didn’t come cheap either, just as those who flocked around didn’t seem to mind too!
All around where one cast a glance, everybody seemed happy – probably also fuelled by the onset of spring.
Children frolicked, adults bantered, the music played and the universe was definitely in harmony at an event, although hosted in Soweto, drawing visitors from around the Republic. All of this to raise Tshingilane’s attendance figures, which although not yet officially provided, must have surpassed the 20 000 previous projection.
Image Jacob MAWELA (A representative of Kubs Chillie, winning vendor of the best kota competition, posed with Miss Soweto, Nokukhanya Kunene and Chef-de-Cuisine and judge, Katlego Mlambo, at the Soweto Kota Festival).