Not your usual celebs as ‘Aunty Feli­cia’ reprises her own her­itage

Sunday Times - - News | The A-listers - with Craig Ja­cobs ja­cobsc@sun­day­times.co.za

● She might have left our TV screens in 2004, but Feli­cia Mabuza-Sut­tle — sorry Noeleen, Anele and Aza­nia — can still lay claim to be­ing the na­tion’s most fa­mous talk-show queen.

These days she is based in the US, but the me­dia vet­eran and en­tre­pre­neur was in Joburg this week to ac­cept an award as a busi­ness pi­o­neer. And she made time in her fre­netic sched­ule to in­vite The A-Lis­ters to spend time with her at an intimate cel­e­bra­tory lunch on Her­itage Day. It took place at her “home away from home”, the Hy­att Re­gency in Rose­bank, where a lav­ish spread was laid out in the court­yard.

Greet­ing “Aunty Feli­cia”, I no­ticed that her skin looked flaw­less, but that she wasn’t quite cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ately dressed for the hol­i­day in her head-to-toe black, fin­ished off with a sun-hat and her sig­na­ture specs.

Quick as a flash, the 68-year-old ac­knowl­edged her er­ror and dis­ap­peared, re­turn­ing mo­ments later with her head cov­ered in an an­i­mal-print wrap.

As the guests started trick­ling in, it was in­ter­est­ing to note that Mabuza-Sut­tle had not in­vited any of the usual celeb crowd.

In­stead, I met Feli­cia’s younger sis­ter Thandi and a dozen men and women who credit her with set­ting them on the right path.

There was, for ex­am­ple, Nom­pumelelo Mthembu, a pas­tor at a Pimville, Soweto, church; and her younger sis­ter Zanele, who has fol­lowed in Mabuza-Sut­tle’s broad­cast­ing foot­steps. She is head of op­er­a­tions for the new DStv news chan­nel, Newz­room Afrika.

It turns out they all at­tended the dance school Mabuza-Sut­tle started at her Dob­sonville, Soweto, home — a move in­tended to get young peo­ple off the streets — when she was still a jour­nal­ist for The World newspaper.

They rem­i­nisced about the time the en­tre­pre­neur per­suaded An­glo Amer­i­can to fund a trip, on which she took some 60 peo­ple, many of whom had never left the town­ship be­fore, to dance for King Sob­huza in Swazi­land.

Thobi Fihle, an­other dancer, said the star had so in­spired him that he’d started his own dance acad­emy.

I ask if we’ll ever see her back on the box, but she waves away the sug­ges­tion. “Some peo­ple go on to re­tire­ment but I pre­fer to say I am on ‘prefer­ment’.

“I do what I pre­fer to do.”

Pic­ture: John Lieben­berg

Feli­cia Mabuza-Sut­tle with her sis­ter Thandi Mabuza, left, and niece Palesa Mabuza

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