Tag: Soweto

Soweto remembers Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a “second Jesus” for what he had done for the world, said one of the people who had gathered outside his former home in Vilakazi Street in Soweto on Friday morning.

The former president and liberation leader passed away on Thursday evening.

“We are not here to mourn but to commemorate, honour, and celebrate him because of everything he has done,” said Lerato Hlongwane of Dobsonville.

She said she felt relieved that the country’s former president had died because the pain and emotional trauma the family had been going through “was too much”.

“I think it was time that God excused him,” Hlongwane said.

She was among a handful of people who sang and danced in the chilly weather until daylight after Mandela’s death was announced.

People wishing to pay last respects gather outside former president Nelson Mandela's home on December 5 2013 in Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)
People wishing to pay last respects gather outside former president Nelson Mandela’s home on December 5 2013 in Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)

Ernestina Matshaka, a 70-year-old grandmother, brought some relief to mourners at the former president’s old house in Vilakazi Street.

Matshaka danced like a youngster to a freedom song about Mandela.

“As Africans when we are happy, depressed or mourning we sing. Singing relieves us,” she said.

“I am relieved that Madiba passed. It was unfair to expect him to jump out of his sick bed and run around like a boy.”

Matshaka said she would be very happy if South Africans could remain calm at this time and respect the legacy Mandela left. The crowd of young and old were energised by Matshaka, dancing and singing with abandon.

Police officers in about 10 vehicles kept watch.

Candles were lit and roses placed in front of the house in Vilakazi Street that was closed to traffic.

An old man kept lighting the candles the wind blew out. Throughout the night, people passed by the house to take pictures and leave messages of support.

Ofentse Nakedi, from Rockville, decided to visit the home and leave a message before going to work.

“I am very sad. My heart goes out to the Mandela family,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Nakedi said when death struck, it was custom to visit the family. “Unfortunately here you can’t really go in and say a prayer so I think leaving a message is the least we can do.”

Security guards at the house set up a large whiteboard for the public to write messages on.

People who had been singing fell silent when a car playing Johnny Clegg’s song Asimbonanga (isiZulu for “We have not seen him”) passed by.

Boys of Soweto: a love letter to township style

Boys of Soweto is the vividly shot tale of a dapperly-dressed circle of gentlemen, a group of suave-conscious South Africans known as Boys of Soweto. The short film, shot in just a day’s work, runs like a high-end fashion spread set to jazzy tempo, a love letter to both style and township beauty, a union perhaps most colorfully represented by Boys of Soweto. Alyssa Klein interviewed director Meja Shoba for Okay Africa.

Boys of Soweto, a vividly shot tale of a dapperly-dressed circle of gentlemen.  (Pic: Okayafrica)
Boys of Soweto, a vividly shot tale of a dapperly-dressed circle of gentlemen. (Pic: supplied)

What’s the concept behind the film? What’s the story?
The concept is about six well-dressed men who make a point to look good in order to vie for the attention of a beautiful young lady who routinely passes their way. One of the gentlemen fortuitously gets close to her, and they all quickly learn that her affection is won by a simple and sweet gesture.

Is it your first short film?
I’m in UCLA’s graduate film program studying directing, so I have shot a few short narrative films already, as well as a short documentary on South African kwaito-electro duo Dirty Paraffin.

What is the most important aspect of the film? The fashion, the guys or the story?
After meeting and plotting with the guys of Boys of Soweto, we all decided to organically integrate fashion and township elegance as part of the narrative, not as independent entities. I wanted to let the sensibility of story be the core of the film, and let all other elements such as the guys’ chemistry and rapport with each other, the fashionable suits, the beautiful young lady, and the Soweto location all enhance the look and feel of the film.

Who are the Boys of Soweto?
Boys of Soweto is a South African fashion and style group consisting of Bobo Ndima, Mbali Bangwayo, Pirates football player Manti Molemo Moholo, Kronic Bonisiswe Nhleko, and Morgan Kgobane. The group has an urban sophistication to their gentleman style. They are lovers of all things fashion and are quite known in the Johannesburg scene.

What do you guys have upcoming?
At the moment I’m scripting an African inspired Charlie’s Angels-esque heist film that I wish to shoot in Johannesburg. And as for Boys of Soweto, they recently were commissioned by Palladium boots for a photo shoot and continue to keep pushing their group to the public. I have a strong feeling I will be working with the guys very soon! It was fun collaborating with them.

Alyssa Klein for Okay Africa

With more than half the population in many African nations under 25, the bright continent is currently undergoing an explosion of vibrant new music, fashion, art and political expression. Okayafrica is dedicated to bringing you the latest from Africa’s New Wave.

Mandela the boxer inspires Soweto gym-goers

In a sweaty township gym where Nelson Mandela once trained as a young boxer, athletes are still pumping iron today, inspired by the peace icon’s example as he fights for his life in hospital.

In the early 1950s, a youthful Mandela worked out on week nights at the Donaldson Orlando Community Centre, or the “D.O.” as it’s still affectionately known.

Spartan and slightly run down, the walls ooze with the intermingled history of sport, community life and the decades-long fight against apartheid oppression.

It was here that Mandela came to lose himself in sport to take his mind off liberation politics.

A young Nelson Mandela in boxing gear. (Gallo)
A young Nelson Mandela in boxing gear. (Gallo)

Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s largest township just south of Johannesburg, the community centre was also where famous African songbirds like Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie first performed.

The 1976 uprising against the imposition of the Afrikaans language in black schools were planned from the D.O. as Mandela and other leaders languished in apartheid jails.

“Here, look, these are the very same weights Madiba used for training,” proud gym instructor Sinki Langa (49) says.

“They have lasted all these years,” he said as he added another set to a bar his fellow trainee Simon Mzizi (30) was using to furiously bench-press, sweat dripping down his face.

Nearby, other fitness enthusiasts worked out to the tune of soothing music which, unusually for a gym, included opera.

The six metre-high 'Shadow Boxer' sculpture in Johannesburg's inner city depicts Nelson Mandela as a young boxer. (AFP)
The 6m-high ‘Shadow Boxer’ sculpture in Johannesburg’s inner city was unveiled in honour of Nelson Mandela in May 2013. (AFP)

‘Drenched with sweet memories’
The D.O. – or Soweto YMCA as it is called today – opened its doors in 1948, the same year the apartheid white nationalist government came to power.

Built with funds donated by Colonel James Donaldson, a self-made entrepreneur and staunch supporter of the now governing African National Congress, the D.O. centre includes a hall, and several sparsely furnished smaller rooms like the one where Mandela sparred as a young man.

Today the gym is housed in an adjacent hall, which was the original building on the grounds erected in 1932.

Mandela joined the D.O. in around 1950, often taking his oldest 10-year-old son Thembi with him.

In a letter to his daughter Zinzi, while on Robben Island where he spent 18 of his 27 years in jail, Mandela recalled his days at the gym.

“The walls … of the DOCC are drenched with the sweet memories that will delight me for years,” he wrote in the letter, published in his 2010 book Conversations with Myself.

“When we trained in the early 50s the club included amateur and professional boxers as well as wrestlers,” Mandela wrote to his daughter, who never received the letter because it was snatched by his jailers.

Training at the D.O. was tough and included sparring, weight-lifting, road-running and push-ups.

“We used to train for four days, from Monday to Thursday and then break off,” Mandela told journalist Richard Stengel in the early 1990s, while writing his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

When he was handed a life sentence in 1964, Mandela kept up the harsh regime of his training to stay fit and healthy.

“I was very fit, and in prison, I felt very fit indeed. So I used to train in prison … just as I did outside,” Mandela said in a transcript of his conversation with Stengel, given to AFP by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

Mandela was eventually released from jail in 1990 and in 1994 he was elected South Africa’s first black president.

‘He’s a fighter’
In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela admitted he was “never an outstanding boxer”.

“I did not enjoy the violence of boxing as much as the science of it… It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle,” Mandela wrote.

“Back in those days, boxing was very popular – it was part of that culture,” Shakes Tshabalala (81) who has been involved with the centre from the start told AFP.

Nelson Mandela (C) pretends to fight former US world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler (R) in Cape Town on November 12 1997 while former five-time world champion Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran (L) of the US looks on. (AFP)
Nelson Mandela (C) pretends to fight former US world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler (R) in Cape Town on November 12 1997 while former five-time world champion Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran (L) of the US looks on. (AFP)

Pugilism always played a big part in Mandela’s life. At his house-turned-museum at 8115 Orlando West, boxing-related items like the WBC World Championship belt donated by Sugar Ray Leonard are on display.

Back at the centre, a new generation of youngsters are training.

Although few of them box today, they draw their inspiration from Mandela’s example in healthy living.

While the ailing 94-year-old statesman is battling a recurring lung infection, the gym-goers firmly believe the liberation icon will return for one last round.

“Mandela was a sportsman. This is why today he is still alive,” said gym instructor Langa.

“I am worried about him, but I know he’ll win. He’s a fighter,” he said.

Jan Hennop for AFP

New TV drama on SA screens

Isibaya is a new Zulu television drama series on South African screens. It is set against the backdrop of South Africa’s taxi industry and tells the story of a generational battle for wealth and power between the Zungus and the Ndlovus, two rival families that live in Thukela Valley. In the past, the two families battled over cattle but the taxi business has become the new hot commodity. Scenes depicting the Ndlovu home were filmed at taxi legend Godfrey Moloi’s mansion in Protea-Glen, Soweto. Moloi, known as the godfather of Soweto, was also the inspiration behindIsibaya. For more about Isibaya, read Rhodé Marshall’s review.