×

We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

A-Listers

IN PICS | Businessman Vivian Reddy's luxury hotel opening was event fit for a king

05 June 2022 - 00:00
Sorisha Naidoo and her husband, businessman Vivian Reddy, at the grand opening.
Sorisha Naidoo and her husband, businessman Vivian Reddy, at the grand opening.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

When larger than life businessman Vivian Reddy invites you to the opening of his newest venture you know it’s going to be a spectacle.

And with a guest list ranging from the new Zulu king making one of his first public appearances (find out what the monarch brings to dinner a little later on) to a beauty queen who rankled that giant flagpole-loving minister, mix in the creme of KwaZulu-Natal politics and throw in a couple of reality TV stars then you have the makings of an occasion that’s equal parts sparkly and spicy.

Zulu king MisuZulu kaZwelithini and queen Ntokozo Mayisela at the grand opening of Radisson Blu Hotel in Umhlanga.
Zulu king MisuZulu kaZwelithini and queen Ntokozo Mayisela at the grand opening of Radisson Blu Hotel in Umhlanga.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

This was Friday evening and the location a sizeable pocket of prime real estate set on KwaZulu-Natal’s sugar coast to celebrate the opening of the first phase of its R4.5bn development, a towering 16-storey five star hotel.

The Radisson Blu Hotel Umhlanga is just down the road from the Gateway shopping centre and in a part of what is said to be the country’s fastest growing node, which is home to grand hotels like the Beverly Hills and the Oyster Box.

As part of my invitation I get to stay at the hotel, which only officially opens to the public this Friday.

Police minister Bheki Cele and wife Thembeka Ngcobo.
Police minister Bheki Cele and wife Thembeka Ngcobo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Arriving at the spot I notice a fleet of luxury cars, including a Bugatti and a Ferrari flanking the entrance where a laser-cut steel dolphin sculpture takes pride of place.

Inside as I check in workers are frantically putting the finishing touches, like unrolling a blue carpet for the gala opening.

Part of the fun of being a hotel guinea pig is that some amenities like room service haven’t quite been rolled out yet so it’s a case of unplanned intermittent fasting for me before heading downstairs to join the festivities.

Picking up a glass of bubbly I head up the gold-tinted elevator to the hotel’s fourth floor, where its conference facilities are located.

Among the milling guests enjoying cocktails and snacking on help-yourself hors d’oeuvres displayed on mirrored shelves on one end of the hallway I meet Tumi and Emmanuel Ramokgopa, who tell me they’re in the midst of purchasing a coal mine, and then on to spotting a politician who has managed to claw himself back after a sex romp scandal some 15 years ago.

That’s the IFP’s chief whip, Narend Singh who, with his beautiful wife Manitha, is in conversation with former politician Mpho Scott, who quips he is now  “just a businessman”.

Next it’s meeting tobacco tycoon Yusuf Kajee and his wife Zakkiyah, striking in a cream Mohamed Paruk gown.

Miss SA, Lalela Mswane.
Miss SA, Lalela Mswane.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

In walks a woman impossible not to notice: current Miss SA Lalela Mswane, whose reign will forever be remembered for a clash with the arts & culture department over her decision to compete at the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.

 I ask the beauty queen if she would do it again if given the chance, to which she replies serenely: “No comment”.

While Lalela arrives with an assistant carrying her Miss SA sash, a few minutes later I spot an unusual sight — two men lugging in a chocolate-brown armchair finished off with leopard skin.

Turns out the incoming Zulu king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini (recently officially recognised by President Cyril Ramaphosa, thereby paving the way for his coronation despite a royal feud) brings his own seat to the table when he graces your do.

Next I say hello to someone who used to be a fixture of Durban events many moons ago — that’s former eThekwini deputy mayor and speaker Logie Naidoo.

He tells me that it was during his time on the local Umhlanga council at the start of his political career that he helped approve the sale of the land to the area’s first black purchaser in an area which to this day is still controlled by white business.

Enter Viv, the man who famously helped fund former prez Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla compound, and his property business partner, Rob Alexander who then purchased the land from the original black developer.

Storyteller Gcina Mhlophe was the master of ceremonies.
Storyteller Gcina Mhlophe was the master of ceremonies.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Along the way to creating the new hotel they had to cough up money to relocate the Telkom building and the post office that was on the land, remove some 42,000 truckloads of sand, redirect a huge stormwater pipe and deal with a couple of liquidations of the construction companies hired to do the work.

But not even a pandemic could deter this son of a teacher and youngest of nine.

The man of the hour, wearing a suit with the distinctive interlocked G monogram print of luxury Italian brand Gucci, arrives with his glam wife, Sorisha Naidoo, in an antique gold and jewel-encrusted gown by Durban label Nadine Designs.

Tobacco tycoon Yusuf Kajee and his wife Zakkiyah at the grand opening of Radisson Blu in Umhlanga.
Tobacco tycoon Yusuf Kajee and his wife Zakkiyah at the grand opening of Radisson Blu in Umhlanga.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Ever the charmer, Viv compliments me on my blue suit while Sorisha plonks a kiss on my cheek before other guests congregate to congratulate them.

A little while later we make our way to our seats from dinner in the ballroom before the Zulu king makes his entrance, flanked by Viv on one side and the pocket-sized KwaZulu-Natal premier, Sihle Zikalala, on the other.

I look forward to tucking into something substantial to eat but all I have to stare at is an empty plate as official proceedings start, commencing with a welcome by storyteller Gcina Mhlophe and a rousing performance of My African Dream by Vicky Sampson.

Then its speeches galore, commencing with Viv, who jokes: “My wife asked me to talk a little and drink a lot.”

When the premier gets up he trumps the hotel development as “the silver lining of the KwaZulu-Natal economy after a cruel season” in reference to the natural disasters and riots the province was recently plagued with.

Finally, just before 10pm, dinner is served — but it ends up being a not so covid-friendly buffet, with guests invited to dish up table by table.

With my table at the back, we are one of the last to be served, but thankfully when I finally join the queue Viv notices and whisks me through to the front of the line.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh, his wife Manitha Singh and former politician Mpho Scott.
IFP chief whip Narend Singh, his wife Manitha Singh and former politician Mpho Scott.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

As for the grub? You can’t have a bash in Durban without serving up a hearty Durban mutton curry, while other dishes included chicken roulade, roast lamb and plenty of veg sides.

Who else turned up?

A few of the cast members of The Real Housewives of Durban were there to support their colleague, Sorisha (sorry, I can’t tell you who they were because I don’t watch the show), police minister Bheki Cele with his wife, Thembeka Ngcobo, and former KwaZulu-Natal judge president Vuka Tshabalala.

Sorisha Naidoo and Dr. Anna Mokgokong at the grand opening of Radisson Blu in Umhlanga.
Sorisha Naidoo and Dr. Anna Mokgokong at the grand opening of Radisson Blu in Umhlanga.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Also in attendance was Dr Anna Mokgokong, there as the deputy chair of the hotel’s board, and deputy finance minister David Masondo, who delivered his speech after dinner and before the king was due to address us.

Now, I would love to tell you what the king had to say but by that stage it was way past my bedtime so I decided to sneak out with a plate of sweet nibble-like cupcakes and mini milk tarts in hand to enjoy the comfort of my swanky hotel room.


subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.