5 October 1984 – Queen performed their first of nine shows in a South African banustan at the height of apartheid 🇿🇦 – ‘The Works Tour’

The tickets were priced at 26 Rands (about $15 US at the time) and sold out in a record breaking one day – the fastest ever for that venue.

Queenmania !! – Queen held thousands of fans spellbound at the Super Bowl in Sun City, Bophuthatswana. Fans came in from all over the country with some families flying in on their private aircraft. Security was extremely tight and people were searched five times. From the moment Queen entered the stage, the audience was immediately caught up in their magic.

The fans went absolutely crazy for Queen and at least three people passed out and were carried away. Everyone was foot stomping, hand clapping and singing along.

It was reported that fifteen minutes into the gig, Freddie’s voice gave out. The band finished the show, but it was hard on Freddie, who was in great pain. He had been having some trouble with his throat before the show, but he thought it was just a mild strain and ignored it.

The fans still enjoyed the concert and were thrilled having one of the best bands performing for them.

Because Sun City’s own medical staff were not qualified to treat throat problems, a specialist had to be flown in to look at Freddie and once again he was told that absolute rest was the only answer. It was the same problem he experienced in the US years before, he was aggravated by the dry air of Bophuthatsawna. Queen had to cancel several shows which cost them dearly.

The band stated at the time of the apartheid that they were not a political band, maintaining their desire to tread as much worldwide ground as possible, and that these concerts were played to mixed audiences.

Brian May said how he felt the shows did a lot of bridge building, and how they met musicians of both colours.

Roger Taylor pointed out how ‘I Want To Break Free’ had become something of an anthem for the African National Congress movement, and how ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ was hugely popular with the black population of South Africa.

Regardless of the band’s overall intentions, the concerts landed Queen on the United Nations cultural blacklist as they broke an international boycott.

Shortly after the shows, Brian explained: “We’re totally against apartheid and all it stands for, but I feel we did a lot of bridge building. We actually met musicians of both colours. They all welcomed us with open arms. The only criticism we got was from outside of South Africa.”

Roger later stated that the South African concerts were a mistake, but added: “The black and the white communities were delighted that we’d gone there. We’d had a huge hit in the black market in South Africa with ‘I Want To Break Free’ and Brian went and presented the Soweto Music Award.”

In 2003, Brian May and Roger Taylor became strong supporters of former president Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign, playing a prominent role in the organization of concerts for the cause.

A local crew member who worked most of the shows recalls that Mercury’s vocal exchanges with the audience were long, and that they were eating out of the palm of his hand. He adds that the band rehearsed extremely hard upon arrival, as they were a bit rusty from having had a week off.

This fabulous picture was taken by photographer Paul Velasco who worked as a photo editor for South Africa’s biggest daily newspaper (at the time) named the Sowetan. He confirmed this was taken during the Sun City show

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