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Unhappy New Year: No minstrel carnival again

There will be no minstrels parade in Cape Town in January. Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

There will be no minstrels parade in Cape Town in January. Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 12, 2021

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This time of year is usually frantic for Amina Jacobs of Factreton.

Fondly know as Aunty Mina, the seamstress has spent most Decembers for the past 30 years putting the finishing touches to colourful and sequinned minstrel costumes.

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But this is the second year the popular Tweede Nuwe Jaar celebration has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, financially impacting people who work behind the scenes.

Jacobs said her income stream has been cut off.

“There’s nothing going on. So I lost a lot of things. I can’t put bread on the table. It’s very disappointing,” she said.

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Jacobs is hopeful next year will be better.

“I miss it. It’s a tradition and I enjoy making it, the special outfits and drum majorettes’ costumes.”

The colourful parade, which includes troupes from across Cape Town singing and dancing through the streets, is a tradition that stretches back more than a 100 years. But nothing’s been “normal” since the pandemic.

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Muneeb Gambeno from the Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association (KKKA) told Weekend Argus there would again be no parade.

“We are all disappointed. Not only the members,” he said. “We are all klopse people. We’ve been doing this forever. I was born into klopse. The reality is we are bitterly disappointed. But at the end of the day we need to balance the interest of the members. We are dealing with a global pandemic. We have to prioritise people’s safety.”

South Africa is currently on level one lockdown restrictions, but with a sharp rise in daily infection rates countrywide, there are growing fears of tighter measures being announced soon.

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“We’ve been actively following the trends and with the fourth wave, we took the view that with the format of our programme, we simply can’t go ahead with this event,” said Gambeno. ”I mean the number of people we attract to Cape Town CBD on the day is just enormous. So we’re not going to be responsible for a super-spreader event.“

Suwayba Alexander from Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain, who owns a business that manufactures outfits, said she was worried she may not “see another minstrels parade again in my lifetime”. “I am very disappointed. We’ve been making costumes since the 1970s,” she said.

"We grew up with the minstrels. My late father and my uncles were all part of the klopse.“

Alexander said orders meant her team would make around 2 000 outfits between March and December every year.

“This time of the year we would be working Saturdays and Sundays also,” she added. “In fact, on New Year’s morning we’re normally still busy. But for the last two years everything is dead, and there is no excitement. It’s sad. We have people working for us, packers and machinery girls. There are quite a few people involved and now there is no work for them.”

Melvyn Matthews, also from the KKKA, is hopeful there may still be a carnival, but admits that “it needs a miracle for it to happen”.

“We have several super troupes. The bands have been practising. And the thing is, the hype is still very much on in the Cape Flats," he said.

“I understand what is happening. I understand that Covid and Omicron is real. There’s legislation that needs to be adhered to."

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