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Watch Woolworths get it right with touching Nelson Mandela flashmob tribute

Woolworths has come through with a truly touching tribute to Nelson Mandela. It organised with the Soweto Gospel Choir to do a flash mob, with singers posing as shoppers and store workers at one of its retail outlets.

The world renowned choir breaks into an “impromtu” rendition of Asimbonanga which in English means “We have not seen him”. Here are the lyrics (with the handy English translations):

Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]

Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]

The song was written during Mandela’s incarceration and made famous by Johnny Clegg, and called for the release of Nelson Mandela. Apparently the flash mob was a last minute replacement for something else the retailer had planned.

“The plan was to support our 100 Smiles Christmas campaign, with a performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir’s rendition of James’ Brown’s I feel Good,” the company says in an official press release. “The Thursday night rehearsal went well but on Friday, the song could not resonate with any of us. Together with the choir, we decided to transform the performance into a Madiba tribute”.

Watch the faces of the other shoppers. Nice move Woolworths… really well done.

Author | Martijn Vreugde

Martijn Vreugde
Martijn is Head of Design at Kiron Interactive. He has become rather enveloped in the social media wave as well as the explosive tech industry that has come about in the last few years. Also as a side note, a Designer, Photoshop junkie, stalker of internet trends, utterly addicted to... More


  1. Pingback: Woolworths get it right with touching Nelson Mandela flashmob | CLCTR

  2. SeekingSolutions

    December 12, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Woolies is certainly much more upscale than it was when I left the RSA. Well done to all.

  3. Martijn Vreugde

    December 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

    They are arguably the most upscale places to do groceries in South Africa, they put a lot of effort into their service delivery and the style of their branches. They do many things like this to keep their reputation and brand in a good light.

    Since you’ve been away you probably remember fruit and veg being like a drop off ware house of vegetables they are now “Food Lovers Market” and are top tier stores that look amazing.

  4. Arthur Charles Van Wyk

    December 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    The title of the post is a bit vague. What exactly is it that Woolies gets right?

    A perpetuation of Black South Africans as entertainment and the rest as the entertained?
    In an actual scenario where black South Africans break out in song in a Woolies store that would be considered a protest and they would all lose their jobs.

    Are they getting it right in honoring Madiba? I would then question why shoot it in a Woolies store and why have the logo in almost every frame. Would neutral space not have been more appropriate if Mandela was the focal point of this exercise and not Woolworths?

    If you mean they’re getting it right with marketing then I may agree with you. The video was memorable for a period. The logo was seen all over the video. Like the commenter below rightly observed the store has great aesthetics. And the fact that that was the only observation highlighted speaks volumes about the true intent of the video – at the cost of using a great man to achieve this result.

    Marketing is about using content to influence decisions. Not riding bandwagons and waves.

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