It all started at the end of October when I got contacted by Harambe, the unemployment agency, asking if I’d like to be a Global Citizen ambassador for the Mandela 100 concert. I was so excited I didn’t even think twice, I agreed there and then. Upon my arrival at the Harambe offices in Johannesburg, the place was so vibrant something I wasn’t expecting. It was extremely crowded like a pack of sardines in a can. I just told myself, there’s no way in hell they will let us all be the ambassadors. If only I knew how wrong I was.
It was my first time at the Harambe offices and it was so colourful, with the colour green being the main colour. Something am not familiar with in buildings, the ones I’ve been have one pale colour but this building was different. We were escorted to the 3rd floor and settled in. Then a well figured woman in her early forties walked in. I knew she was the boss from how she looked. She wore a classic black blazer with her nude heel on, she was just oozing professionalism and sophistication. She introduced herself and told us how things were going to work. After 5 minutes she left the room and stress levels rose amongst us. We just found out not all of us are going to be chosen; we would be assessed individually and in groups if we were eligible to be part of the concert as ambassadors through the activities we were going to take part in. Everybody was murmuring. I was there thinking, this will cause confliction, everybody will want to be recognised during those activities and try to overshadow others so they can get chosen. The guy next to me leaned over and said “Ntwana this won’t end well I already see conflict during the activities.” I looked at him with a cheesy look telling him I was thinking the exact same thing.
Briefing was done and we knew what to expect for the next three weeks. Nobody was escorting us now around the building and I got lost every time I got there. The floors were similar from time to time I would get lost and when I tried to ask for help my words just came out wrong and who I asked the direction from just scowled and walked away leaving me hanging. Already I was painting a picture of failure. I took it upon myself that I would study every floor so I could avoid asking for help from anyone. I had never felt so anxious in my life.
For the next three weeks I wanted to be present and recognise as much as possible. Sadly I wasn’t getting any of the recognition I was gunning for, things weren’t going according to plan. I watched in despair as I was in the shadows whilst other children were shinning. My spot was slipping away; others even left as they couldn’t bare the pressure.
At the beginning of the third week rumors began to spread that we were all going to be ambassadors; nobody would be left out. Luckily those rumors were true, we were going to the Global Citizen concert to celebrate Mandela’s 100th birthday as ambassadors. I took a deep sigh after hearing that news. What a relive, I thought, thank God I am going to see Jay Z on the 2nd of December.
During the last week before the concert we met the people behind the stage that was going to be built and music executives and managers who were going to bring artist to perform on that stage. Then there was this one woman who looked familiar, most of us recognized her and you’d hear whispers around the room. “Beyoncé… Beyoncé… Beyoncé…” Then she introduced herself and mentioned she was part of Beyoncé management team.
Then it hit you and you got overwhelmed with disbelief, thinking Wow I am going to see Beyoncé live on stage. Before she left she requested we shoot a video chanting “WE LOVE YOU BEYONCE!!!” And they did so well except I was not really a Beyoncé fan and that chant pierced my eardrums that’s how loud it was. Finally the day arrived and I never felt so important. I was transported to the stadium, given access to be anywhere on the stands and got paid at the end of the day; the true definition of a VVIP. Upon our arrival at around 08:30 fans were already there, it was unbelievable, the gates weren’t even open yet large crowds were there. Roads around FNB stadium were closed, traffic was building and officers had their hands full directing cars to their parking. There was a joyous atmosphere in the stadium with fan argue about who would give their best performance. The likes of Usher, Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé and Jay Z after all. The gates opened and crowds flooded in, the stadium came alive and it was amazing from start to finish.
I became thirsty and wanted to quench my thirst after the concert. I walked to the nearby petrol station; it was jam-packed so I turned back there and then. I wasn’t keen on standing on a long queue, I headed back to the bus.
I was walking next to this elderly man and all of a sudden he said, “They have a guns…”
“Who has guns?” I ask myself.
I heard screams and I saw the guy with black leather gloves and a jacket ordering us to go back and get down. More man rushed in with guns and bags. At first I thought they were kidding, probably playing some cruel joke on us reminding us that whether Beyoncé was in Soweto didn’t matter, you would get robbed here.
Sadly it wasn’t a prank; it was happening. I froze in fear, my body moved itself not certain how I walked back as requested. For some strange reason I forgot what I was told to do and my heart was racing. A gun was waved back and forth in my face. I literally froze. The one guy shouted “ngithe phansi!” I looked to my left the elderly man was prostate on the ground. I only knelt down with one knee and looked down. I wasn’t going to be part of the people will give up their stuff. I had too much to lose, I had a tiny bag with me my ID, wallet, my Global Citizen merchandise things I didn’t want lose and wished to treasure.
This one guy was right next to me and not moving. I tried to sneak the bag behind me but he saw me and thought I was up to something. He snatched my bag and insulted me, “Hey futsek…”
He passed the old man and didn’t search me, he probably thought all my belongings were there. Now I was angry, my fear was extinguished by my rage, I wanted to retaliate and snatch my bag back. I knew it was going to be useless to them, they will toss it somewhere; it had zero value for them. My conscience was never this loud, “Really you want to risk your live for a bag?” I thought.
I came back to senses instantly and realised how easy it is to lose your life. As much as I didn’t want to lose my stuff that I wanted to treasure as a memory, I could have lost my life and be a memory too. All the memories I created throughout the month were vanishing in front of my eyes. That moment made me realise that life is fragile and it could end at any time. It’s best to treasure all your memories and live everyday like it’s your last because tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody.