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Hola Nelson Mandela!

It was a role reversal of sorts for sixty trendy kwaito stars who arrived to meet the star of the show at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg on Wednesday — a conservative looking grandfather with a walking stick.

Madiba magic was the star attraction and the kwaito stars had cleared their schedules just for the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela and listen to some wise words from the former president.

The kwaito contingent had pulled strings through the ANC Youth League to get an audience with the octogenarian to hear his views, among other things, about their music and the role they played in society.

Mandela was upbeat about their musical role. He said: ”We are regarded by the rest of the world as a miracle country and it is important that you be a miracle too.”

He told the kwaito artists, among them, Arthur Mafokate, Mandoza and Senyaka, that they had a great future ahead of them and that it was important for them to behave in a manner which would attract praise.

He said artists were able to reach quarters of the world that politicians could not reach, and it was important that they used the opportunities that they had.

”Through your music you can speak the language that is understood by everyone, and kwaito artists are already in big demand.”

Mandela praised Arts, Culture and Technology Minister Ben Ngubane, saying he was devoted to promoting art in the county.

”Ngubane is very open minded and tackles issues objectively. When one listens to him, you cannot tell which party he is affiliated to.”

South Africa was fortunate to have a man like Ngubane in charge of culture.

Mandela commented on the Mbongeni Ngema issue, saying that the songwriter was ”in a bit of trouble”.

Ngema’s release of his song Amandiya, which purports to be about the relationship between South African Indians and Africans, has caused a storm of controversy with the artist being accused of racism.

But Mandela said: ”I have not lost respect for him. In the darkest days he used his work to publish what was going on in South Africa. He did a remarkable job.

”Now we should not condemn and reject him because of a song.”

Mandela also paid tribute to the ANC’s Peter Mokaba who died while he was overseas.

”I was devastated when I heard. He was a young man whom I admired. I invited him along to lunch at my home twice this year to discuss important issues and I am very sorry to learn that I will never see him again.”

Mandela also refuted media reports that he was snubbed by the British Prime Minister over his visit to one of the Libyan Lockerbie bombers, in prison in Scotland.

He said it was a simple mix up over the times of planes and was nothing more than a missed phone call.

”Mr Blair and I are close friends and he has never refused me any requests. I am going to see the two editors who published the stories to explain to them what happened.”

Mandela was accompanied by Art and Culture Deputy Minister Bridgitte Mabandla and ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba. – Sapa

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