Umoja to host queen

UMOJA, the Spirit of Togetherness, will host the queen of Swaziland tomorrow night.

UMOJA, the Spirit of Togetherness, will host the queen of Swaziland tomorrow night.

The queen has been invited to a performance of Umoja at its new home in the Victory Theatre in Orange Grove, Johannesburg.

"We felt that it's payback time. When we first started Umoja, a lot of people were dismissive of it," said Umoja co-owner Todd Twala.

"They gave us no chance and told us we were wasting our time and should forget the idea and find jobs as domestic workers.

"Though we were in turmoil, we had a dream and were determined to see it through. So we persevered."

About 10 years ago the cast heard that the queen was in town.

"We took the opportunitrecalls Twala recalls.

"We were thrilled when she made it to the Sandton Convention Centre (in Johannesburg)."

To their amazement, the queen mother did not only enjoy the show, but joined the cast on stage to dance.

Umoja and the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland was then born. They were later to perform freely for the queen's charity in Swaziland.

"It's not only that, but we want to thank the Swazis for giving us a home during the apartheid era," Twala said.

"We have adapted Umoja to include 'Visit Swaziland' to encourage tourism into the land of the humble and beautiful people who take pride in their culture. After all they have done much for South Africa and its people. We want to say thank you. We feel they need to enjoy a bit of the spin-off from the World Cup."

The queen mother's visit is a sequel to last week's visit by Umoja, Sowetan, Land Rover, SABC and a host of Swazi media.

She will be accompanied by Swaziland's tourism minister Macford Sibande and his team, the royal entourage, Uthango laboMake, a group of women who will perform, showcasing the Swazi home-grown culture alongside the agile dancers.

Sibande said they had identified their tourism market.

"It is largely South African and must be encouraged to visit as often as possible," he said .

Heads of state, dignitaries, business people and celebrities are also expected to be part of the audience.

The "Visit Swaziland" initiative is supported by Sowetan, Sunday World, Land Rover and facilitated by Sy Manana and Associates.