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.
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