Umjolo with Azola brings love in the time of Covid-19

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Social media’s #UmjoloWithAzola brings potential love interests together. Photo: Supplied
Social media’s #UmjoloWithAzola brings potential love interests together. Photo: Supplied


What started as a social media post has become a relationship movement, with the #UmjoloWithAzola speed dating affair hosting its first in-person event on Thursday night.

Azola Mlota, the founder of the Twitter dating site, says the next move for his powerful love campaign is to create a television show for a wider reach.

With success stories including marriages, long-term relationships, business partnerships and one couple starting a family after meeting through #UmjoloWithAzola, Mlota says:

Our first success story was after three months, when someone from the Eastern Cape said he had found his perfect match. Five months back, I saw that more people were hungry for love, so I decided to create a dating site. It is picking up and we are now working on a dating app.

His mission is to create a safe space for women to find their perfect matches in the face of the increasing incidence of violence against women and children.

Everything we do is centred on safety for participants, especially women. Safety is our top priority; that is why we don’t encourage any meet-ups before we make sure that the people meeting are comfortable and they know enough about each other to move their conversations from our Twitter trend to the physical form.

#UmjoloWithAzola started in 2018 and trends every Sunday on Twitter. Single people who are looking for love share their pictures under the hashtag, with a short description of who they are.

Interested parties then initiate conversations in the private direct messages, and, if the parties are a match, they share contact details and organise a physical meeting.

Mlota and his team recently took the hashtag, which boasts thousands of followers, including celebrities, to a live speed dating event at the Velvet Hour Cocktail Bar and Kitchen in Greenstone, Johannesburg.

The matchmaker event was attended by scores of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes who mingled throughout the night while good wine, food and music contributed to a laid-back setting, and popular faces such as poet Ntsiki Mazwai, media personality Stone Seete, actress Manaka Ranaka and internationally acclaimed actress Connie Chiume livened up the event.

Mlota said the night, which mimicked popular British dating show First Dates, would be made into a television show soon.

“I am knocking on the right doors and conversations are being had about turning this into a television show.

“What is important for us is to make sure that we don’t lose the feel of what has made this movement a success. I am inspired by [the reality television series] All You Need Is Love.”

The popular SABC1 dating series from 1993 brought new and old lovers together, helped lovers fix their relationships and reunited lost lovers.

Mlota is hands-on when it comes to the success of the dates that match.

“I call people and I check up on them to make sure that they are not being catfished. There is a lot of gender-based violence, so I call to make sure that the date is perfect. We made it a speed dating event because it’s safe and the main aim is that there are options for everyone.”

The next event will be held in Durban next month.


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