ZION CHRISTIAN CHURCH followers flocked to the iconic Maponya Mall in their thousands and put on a show-stopping performance as their figurehead, Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane wished peace unto all while celebrating the shopping complex' tenth birthday milestone, last Friday.
On an occasion of rolling bonanza including the splashing of a plethora of prizes to shoppers, the last time the mall had witnessed such an overflow of human traffic both in the vast parking lot and inside the walkways, was back in 2007 when late statesman, Nelson Mandela cut the ribbon signifying the opening of business at the award-winning centre.
Nonagenarian and pioneer of the retail pivot, Dr Richard Maponya, just as 10 years ago, seem to know how to attract crowd-pullers to his vision’s razzmatazz as Lekganyane’s visit ensured that his curious followers outnumbered any number of regular or visiting shoppers to the Klipspruit address.
It might had been a celebration but business continued as usual as the many thousands, who were not part of invited guests gathered inside a huge marquee in the parking area, boosted the tenants’ takings for the day.
The milestone, under the clarion call of ‘Maziweke’ was observed in two parts, the beginning of which incorporated the Maponya Group’s CSI touch which saw the entrepreneur opening a computer laboratory at a school adjacent to the mall named Motjoli Primary School – and to which, 15 computers had been donated.
The second part was the commencement of a cocktail party in the marquee at around midday but not before drama aroused by the thousands of star-struck church followers who swarmed the centre’s food court, and in the process causing a stampede in their excitement to see Lekganyane and Maponya being ferried in a golf-cart winding through a cleared path created by a cordon of security personnel, as well as an SAPS VIP protection detail – to the marquee.
Once all guests were gathered, a programme director got the ball rolling by negotiating through items which included entertainment provided by a musical outfit from Bochum named Tshosane e Nnyane; a duo of young female tap dancers and the Zion Christian Church Brass Band, whose mighty and appealing sound rang out through the vicinity.
The event had a Limpopo feel to it, no doubt indicating the business mogul’s place of origin.
Known for his philanthropic bend which had over the years seen him giving generously into educational causes, this touch was evident in the programme as winners of a schools art competition incepted especially for the birthday named Ndlovu Ndalo Challenge – were announced on stage, with management deciding on not leaving other participants empty-handed by imparting a tidy sum of R10 000 to 10 primary and high level schools.
Their artwork on a theme of the Maponya clan’s symbol of an elephant was on display near the stage – flanking the big cake created especially for the occasion.
Another item had employees and tenants with 10 years of service from the mall’s opening being recognized with certificates and sweeteners of shopping vouchers – with the souvenirs signed by the Maponya Groups’ scion and founder’s daughter, Chichi.
In his brief address, Maponya told the audience of how it took him all of 27 years to realise the dream of establishing the structure hugging Soweto’s Chris Hani thoroughfare.
The occasion, he said with a tinge of nostalgia, reminded him of ten years ago when Madiba cut the ribbon on opening.
Continuing on with the thousands looking on and listening, the giant whom the State has honoured with the national order of the Grand Counselor of the Baobab, amongst a glut of accolades, noted how the structure named after him is known throughout Africa and the world – in addition to being acknowledged in Brazil [whilst on a visit there] as part of immediately-recognised South African icons.
Cutting typically ever so dapper in a crisp Savile Row two-piece navy suit, Maponya humbly expressed his gratitude to tenants [ which included those who have been doing business from the first day] by mentioning how he really appreciated their support so much – and adding that his dream, is the dream of the people of South Africa.
Inside an ornately decorated marquee with a lengthy red carpet running through the middle, he rounded off his speech by blowing away ten miniature candles and then followed by the symbolic cutting of a slice of the big red velvet cake.
Guests were served starters of crumbed chicken taco and with the mains coming in four choices which also made allowance for vegetarians.
On offer was the option of garlic mash with butter and sauteed beef strips in peppercorn; savoury rice with angel fish; chicken ala king and rice, as well as grilled veggies with pesto dressing.
With the Brass band providing the melody in the main, and with children and grandchildren in the midst among innumerable church officials, in addition to Miss Face of Limpopo Phomolo Tjie – the guests eagerly tucked into the fare whilst making conversation and new acquaintanceship.
No doubt in reverence for the ZCC presence, alcoholic beverages only got served later after Lekganyane’s entourage had departed.
In their absence, a duo of baskers painted in gold and platinum named African Minerals then took to the decks and drums as they commenced with the belting out of a unique type of beat in what was effectively the latter part of the programme.
As they strutted their stuff down by the stage, two chefs had attended to the cake by dishing out slices to those of the sweet tooth – especially the schoolchildren – and as the party swung into the early evening!