A heavy 111 millimetres of rain poured in Selebi-Phikwe on Sunday night, but that could not stop revellers from packing the night joints of the seemingly quiet mining town.
The drinking holes are the heartbeat of the town’s social lifestyle. It is there that one can hear stories about the state of life and times of any town. On a rainy Sunday night, the Mmegi news crew barhopped through the nightclubs and speakeasies of Zana. Sunday is normally a day when revellers take it easy. We start at Makhubu Poolside Bar, where a small crowd of mostly mature women is relaxed, chatting and drinking. They have been ordered to shut their music off by the police, they say.
Makhubu was once the glory of Phikwe in its heydays, being the meeting place of the who’s who of the town. The swimming pool was a prominent feature and the lush gardens were a major drawcard for the easy-going, nightlife crew. Today it is quite run-down, the pool is empty, sun shades are tattered and it remains a shadow of its former self. The local town council is looking for investors to take over the facility. But still, the Makhubu Poolside is a decent, inexpensive joint said to be popular with those looking for a relaxed outing with plenty of space.
They say tonight is not the best night because it is threatening to rain and there is not much shelter to avoid getting wet. Next up we hop on to Phikwe’s most popular nightclub at Distance, the legendary El Paso. The area is still a crowd favourite. But we quickly learn that El Paso is closed and the crowd showed up for Brown’s Executive Lounge. It is adjacent to El Paso, in the same building, and has taken over as the busiest nightclub in Phikwe. “Nowadays people only talk about Brown's. You will think it's another place,” says our newfound fixer leading us to the entrance. Brown’s Executive Lounge is a small and low-lit bar with a balcony that transforms into a dance floor at night. It is the Sunday night of the first weekend of December and it is a downpour.
There is a pungent smell of sulphur in the air. Despite the downpour, Brown’s Executive Lounge is fully packed. As our beautiful fixer leads us inside the packed stuffy bar we notice that no one is wearing masks. As a trio of journalists, we make our way through the joint with masks on, and our new fixer announces that we look exactly like ‘Gabs guys’ because of the masks. The comment comes across as if we are not strong and brave, or jolly enough. We stand out as newcomers, and we might even become targets to pickpocketers, she says. It is also impractical to drink with a mask on, she further reasons. Inside the bar, people are in high spirits, and no one could guess it is 2021 and a few days after the discovery of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. On the balcony, DJ SK is blazing Amapiano tunes and Makhadzi.
As the rain intensifies, some people climb tables and dance while shouting, "Aene ya Masubelele". Our fixer tells us that after the lounge closes, sometime around midnight there is Giovanni Night Club in the town centre where revellers party until the morning. On further enquiry of what else we are missing, we are told that “dibara tsa General ko BCL le tsone dia ntsha”. BCL bars were the meeting joints of the BCL mine workers where they quenched their thirst after a day's hard labour digging for copper.
There is Soul Lounge that one guy offers to take us to if we still want to find out what Phikwe gets up to at night. What about Botshabelo joints? Our fixers are not keen to take us there and say they do not know much about any venue there. At the end of the night, we realise that despite all the trouble that Phikwe went through after the closure of the mine and the onset of COVID-19, the drinking holes have remained resilient, and residents still dance on tables like it is business as usual.