Fast dance down memory lane

Zola Mahobe. Undated (Circa 1970s)© Sowetan.
Zola Mahobe. Undated (Circa 1970s)© Sowetan.

The early 1980s were the fastest paced years in my opinion as an eight-year-old.

Copies of hard-to-digest Reader's Digest made a disappearance from our glass display case and soon there were copies of Sowetan following a giant baby's every move.

S'thandiwe, or "S'thandiveni", as most reporters misspelt his name, was born in the Eastern Cape.

There was much speculation about his gigantic form.

Some people questioned his very being, and others could just about write a horror movie with the tall tales.

The country was in the hands of the late PW Botha and a few friends, including Pik Botha. This lot were so thorough in the execution of apartheid that they made passports a prerequisite for visiting homelands such as Transkei and Ciskei.

In 1982 the organisers of the Miss RSA contest commenced talks with the Miss SA owners to change the name of their pageant to Miss South Africa.

As they hold a franchise for an international pageant, the organisers felt the time was right to have one Miss South Africa.

That is why there were two white Miss South Africas in 1982 and 1984.

It was only in 1985 that talks gave birth to a single Miss South Africa. The title holder, Andrea Steltzer, was informed on the eve of her departure that she was not permitted to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in Miami because of sanctions.

Blacks were ecstatic. They hated that there were only white faces in the country's pageant.

But a Miss Black South Africa pageant, which had glitzy affairs such as Miss Soweto, Miss PSL and Miss Sof 'n Free as the build-up events was more exciting.

It also paved the business and financial way for beauty queens such as Zandi Nhlapho, who married the Miss Soweto pageant owner, Ralph Zikalala, and for author and spiritualist Thami Ngubeni and former True Loveeditor Khanyisile Dhlomo.

Among the most recognisable faces to grace these events was brilliant businessman Zola Mahobe.

His was an intriguing lifestyle and he was called Mr Cool because of his larger-than-life personality.

It seems that between 1983 and 1987 Mahobe became an overnight multi-millionaire and was on a roll of luck, turning everything he touched into gold.

His business ventures were vast and in demand, and when he bought the Sundowns soccer team and steered it from the dumps to the first division in the National Soccer League he really got respect . He spoilt his players rotten, taking them on holidays with their partners and rewarding some with brand-new BMWs. All the while his right hand, his girlfriend Snowy Moshoeshoe, was the major sponsor of his wealth.

Moshoeshoe was a cashier at Standard Bank who had stolen about R20million. Back then, people could safely retire on half a million.

When the news got around that Mahobe and Moshoeshoe had been charged with fraud, black people were not upset; they were glad that the money had been pinched by a black man for a change.

When Mahobe was caught after a nine-month getaway full of suspense, with a R50 000 reward on his head, he was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

While all this was unfolding, the entertainment scene had received a shot of energy in a whirlwind of talent in the form of Brenda and the Big Dudes.

Weekend Special burnt the charts and every tongue spoke one language - Brenda Fassie.

And, as it happens, many wannabe bands soon followed the fashion of a young sexy singer with a band of smiling dudes.

Cheek To Cheek was warm on their heels. Soon there was Splash, The Dalom Kids, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and many others.

Sadly, for most of them, there wasn't much revenue or talent tosustain them.

Rumours abounded about sexual harassment in the music industry, but that didn't deter the many artists.