Gala for Madiba

ICON CELEBRATED: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile and Chief Zwelivelile Mandela during Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday celebrations in Newtown, Johannesburg, on Saturday. PIC: VATHISWA RUSELO. 19/02/2009. © Sowetan.
ICON CELEBRATED: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile and Chief Zwelivelile Mandela during Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday celebrations in Newtown, Johannesburg, on Saturday. PIC: VATHISWA RUSELO. 19/02/2009. © Sowetan.

GAUTENGERS and admirers of Nelson Mandela converged on Mary Fitzgerald Square in Joburg on Saturday to celebrate the icon's 91st birthday.

GAUTENGERS and admirers of Nelson Mandela converged on Mary Fitzgerald Square in Joburg on Saturday to celebrate the icon's 91st birthday.

It was also in response to calls for July 18 to be renamed Mandela Day in honour of South Africa's first black president. And because of his selflessness alongside his comrades, 67 minutes were set aside for South Africans to do something good for each other.

Setting the tone for the fun-filled day were comperes Florence Masebe of Muvhango and Meshack Mavuso of Isidingo. And then the festivities in Newtown began in earnest when a Venda and Shangaan dance group gracefully and colourfully went through its paces.

Sechaba, who was once a street kid but has now become a gospel star of note, joined heavyweights such as Solly Moholo and Deborah Fraser to deliver their brand of smooth, soul-stirring gospel tunes. Seemingly a hit with the spiritually starved crowd, Fraser made such an impression she was called back for an encore.

Elegant in her vintage gear, Nhlanhla Ncinza charmed her way into the hearts of the crowd.

Maestro trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, who never fails to rock the party, was sizzling.

Arthur Mafokate, a die-hard fan of the late pop king Michael Jackson, came, reminisced and conquered with his eclectic repertoire. And his protégée Chomee gets better with each performance. She is not only sexy but also a provocative dance master, talented and pretty.

Nimble-fingered Nigerian guitarist Kunle had the ladies eating out of his hand. Child star Winnie Khumalo, now a young woman, is still kicking butt with her beautiful voice. She is also doing well keeping Brenda Fassie's music alive.

Although Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe paid tribute to Mandela, it was not a day of speeches.

It was a day of celebration and a bit of reflection.

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