The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund) and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) join the global community in mourning the untimely loss of Shaun Johnson, the founding Executive Director, of our sister legacy organisation, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.
To us, Shaun was more than a colleague but a friend and confidante whose absence remains surreal. Just last year, our organisations jointly celebrated the centenary of our founder, Nelson Mandela, in the United States and the incredible manner they continue to serve his vision since their establishment. We could have never imaged that at this time, he wouldn’t be with us.
A true patriot, Shaun’s contribution to the realisation of our democracy as an avid anti-apartheid activist and journalist will forever live in our memory. His humility, in spite of all he had accomplished in his short life, could never be tamed, always serving with purpose and empowering those around him. A former Rhodes-scholar himself, Shaun was truly passionate about developing young people as future leaders for our continent.
CEO of NMCF, Sibongile Mkhabela says, “Shaun was the ideal leader to take the vision of our founder forward through his work at The Mandela Rhodes Foundations and as interim CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It was not hard to see the promising leader Madiba saw in him.”Shaun remained committed to Madiba’s vision for our continent including that of a better future for children, through fostering collaboration across his legacy organisations and promoting the work of the Fund and NMCH.
To further strengthen these relationships, Shaun ensured that the legacy organisations were represented in the selection committee for the Mandela-Rhodes programme, so they collectively played a part in endorsing our future leaders.
He will be sorely missed.
Our prayers are with his wife Stefania and daughter Luna Johnson and the many countless lives he has touched.
Maponya and Soweto are synonymous
He stands among great giants and thinkers, guiding stars during the dark days of apartheid, the architects of Soweto’s heartbeat, people determined to make the place created as nothing more than labour reservoirs become the place of intense struggle and great victories. These great giants rose in all sectors and birthed Soweto of my youth.
Civic issues Sofasonke Mpanza; PQ Vundla Social Development: Ellen Khuzwayo a disciplinarian Madikolo Education: Dr Khambule and Dr Matseke, ntate Mathabathe Sports development: Stanley The Sonos (athletics, boxing, soccer medical: Dr Motlana, Dr Mbere, Dr Abu Asvat Business: Makhetha, Ephraim Tshabalala (Eyethu Cinema) of course mme Marina and ntate Maponya Remarkable Women with the likes of Marina Maponya and Sally Motlana, and Ellen Khuzwayo Leaders on the ground who did not speak about the new post-apartheid racial or social category "the poorest of the poor," but used their lives and presence among the people to say, "we are a powerful and capable people."
Their lives and stories should remain an inspiration to future generations and a lesson to today’s generation of leaders. They did not call themselves pompously, "We, the leaders of society" as is now commonly heard, but the people stood in unison and called them “our leaders”.
Their stories covered the political, social and economic life of the vast Soweto township transforming the place named purely as a geographic location into a world recognized place for resistance against oppression and a place for black aspiration. These were the “go to” people of our times
Maponya is an institution and landmark in the township.
(Maponya in the times of the 70s uprising)
The Maponya family, reminds us of the critical importance of family in pursuance of critical ventures. Not only was the family known as a unit (Marina and Richard Maponya), but as a place of refuge for children whose family systems may not have been as strong. Many of my contemporaries especially comrades testify to how the Maponya family gave them sense of family and home, a sense of being loved, listened to, cared for, supported and often offered financial and other resources that they needed for one project or another.
Seth Mazibuko, fellow trialist reminded me that, ntate Maponya, testified for the defence at our trial in Kempton Park in 1978/79 between himself and mama Ellen Khuzwayo. They chastised both judge and prosecution telling them that they (us) are children in the dock who should be at school, and the police who brutalized and killed many should be in the dock. I don’t know if that helped our cause, but certainly helped our spirits.
It was a huge risk to take a stand in defence of young militant students who were on trial for the leadership role they had played in 1976. He (Dr Maponya), in particular, had a lot to lose but he took the risk anyhow. He was and he will remain one of us. Thank you Chichi and your brothers
Much later in life I had the honour of meeting and working with ntate Maponya on a development plan as one of the inaugural trustees of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
Tata Mandela had challenged leaders to establish an institution that would “change the way society treats its children and youth”. Ntate Maponya was one of those leaders who would give of themselves and their resources, without expecting any reward, to ensure that this institution is not only created but that it is sustained (hopefully) into perpetuity.
The establishment of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund clarified fundamental values that Madiba and Maponya together held as leaders, relating, influencing, organizing, giving, partnerships; and as leaders they understood the use of soft power in rebuilding our institutions and rebuilding the soul of a people faced with destruction for so long.
Towards the end of this natural life, Madiba challenged us with the transformation of child healthcare, one of my first points of call was at ntate Maponya’s house (where I was, as always, warmly received). I did not go to ‘ask for money’ but to seek for his wisdom, guidance and strategic direction. Often I would be accompanied by Irene Menell one of the elders of the Children’s Fund, and I would listen intensely as elders debated the issues. I recall that it is in some of those meetings that the ‘soul’ of the Children’s Hospital was further crystalized. An institution anchored on the fundamental values of family, care, diversity, inclusivity, excellence, knowledge building and transparency. A civil society led institution that would strategically exploit the strengths of both the public and the private centred on the values partnerships.
Ntate Mapnoya remained an astute and dependable elder, actively participating in guiding, and being the beacon of light to the end. We shall miss him, Siyabonga baba.
We thank the family for sharing him with us.
South African entrepreneur and property developer Richard Maponya has died at the age of 99 after a short illness. The Trustees and Staff of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund are truly saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Maponya.
Richard John Pelwana Maponya rose from the impoverished rural areas of Limpopo to become one of the most respected self-made businesspeople in South Africa. Despite the humiliation of apartheid and laws forbidding entrepreneurial spirit amongst black people, he proved to be a visionary with a dream that refused to die. He has become an inspiration and an icon with black entrepreneurs.
The relationship between Dr Maponya and Tata Nelson Mandela is one that dates to many decades. Dr Maponya is also the man who drove Tata Mandela on the historic day he was released from Victor Verster prison in Paarl, Cape Town; and he provided the fleet of vehicles used on that special day.
Until his passing, Dr Maponya has served as a management trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, handpicked by Mr Mandela himself at the inception of the Fund in 1995.
On behalf of the Trustees and Staff at both the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, we salute Richard John Pelwana Maponya as a friend and visionary. His legacy continues to live on through his contribution to South Africa and the work of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
Memorial Tribute: William S. White, President - Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
The Trustees and Staff of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund are truly saddened to learn of the passing of William S. White - an influential and inspiring leader. Bill White had a long-standing relationship with our organisation that spans more than two decades. Since the inception of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund by Nelson Mandela during his tenure as the first democratically elected President of South Africa, we received unwavering support. Under the headship of Bill White, the Mott Foundation heeded Mr Mandela’s call and fully subscribed to his vision of changing the way society treats its children.
Bill White and the Mott Foundation became President Club members of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and went on to become Lifetime Founding members. They fully supported Nelson Mandela’s vision for our future citizens, particularly assisting in building the capacity of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Consequently, under Bill White’s leadership, Mott Foundation granted two million U.S dollars to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for a permanent Endowment fund to ensure sustainability and that the legacy and vision of its Founder, Nelson Mandela, is secured in perpetuity. We were extremely grateful and humbled by this vital support.
Bill was a great friend of our organisation and created numerous opportunities for us to highlight the important work we do. Whenever he was visiting South Africa, Bill would take every opportunity to get involved with our work on the ground, and his passion was evident in the various after school programs. His continued contribution to the Fund resulted in Mr Mandela personally recognising Bill with an award through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
On behalf of the Trustees and Staff at both the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Hospital, we salute Bill White as a friend and visionary. His legacy continues to live on through the strong partnerships he has forged throughout the world - and particularly here in South Africa.
Hamba kahle Bill White – your generosity and inspiration shall be sorely missed.
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