Mandela Day and Kgosi Ya Dipere

Affectionately referred to as, Kgosi ya Dipere (Sotho for, King of Horses) in the circle, his lifetime somehow conspired to converge with that of Nelson Mandela – from early 60’s Rivonia to the early 90’s of South Africa’s transition to Democracy!

Morena Mosotho Mafokate is eternally grateful to Madiba for having made it possible for him to participate at the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, as a show-jumper.  So much so that at an event he had organized on Mandela Day at the Soweto Equestrian Centre which he founded in Rockville, Soweto – he made it a point to don the team jacket every athlete (including Elana Meyer) was outfitted with from that summer sporting spectacle.

Paterfamilias to the equally famous Kwaito music exponent, Arthur, Mafokate had roped in volunteers to spruce up the centre, as his own way of the continued enhancement of community development – in the spirit of the day!

On a warm winter’s midweek day, all hands were on deck as young physiotherapists, riders, stable hands, a sizable media contingent, caregivers and even patients undergoing an evolutionary treatment known as hippo therapy, descended on the bucolic venue to apply fresh paint to paddocks, clean-up stables and rake sand around the vaulting arena. 

In addition to the various activities, the centre’s grounds were dotted with exhibition stalls manned by the physiotherapists based at three of Soweto’s clinics in Chiawelo, Zola and Mofolo; Milmac a market leading entity in pet and animal-related supplies and care and with the payoff line: “Everything for every pet and animal”  as well as a thoughtfully arranged display of the centre’s array of glistening trophies, medals, mementos, certified achievements and acknowledgement, images (including a monochromatic studio portrait of a toddler Arthur posing alongside his dad), inter alia! 

The latter exhibition was located under a tree planted by the Royal Princess Anne, pending a visit to the centre in 2012.  

Elsewhere adjacent to the stables, an artist named, Mr Ek Se, was engrossed in the spray-painting of a huge-scaled image of an airborne horse with a cut-off mounted rider, on a steel shipping container.  His two-year-old daughter, Imani Khanya frolicked nearby. 

Explaining her presence, the artist pointed out that young as she was, she was already taking riding lessons – qualifying his setting his child on such a course as an “alternative way of raising children” whilst citing one of the benefits thereof as being the stimulating of activity.  And upon enquiring regarding the artwork he was busy with, the artist, who came across and sounded like a knowledgeable and responsible parent, declared that his contribution was a gesture of appreciation of the commendable deeds Mafokate was performing for kids such as his, and the community.

Imani Khanya wasn’t the only child present on the day.  Rockville resident and mother, Xoliswa Nomgojo – spectating at proceedings keenly – had reason to be happy at the event. 

His four-year-old crèche-attending son, Siphelele, had recently began walking by himself – thanks to the outcomes of physiotherapy administered to him at Mofolo Clinic. 

“I was happy and cried tears of joy!” exclaimed the restive boy’s mother, describing the moment the young one got to walk sans assistance.

In fact, the kid got to be thrust into the spotlight when he became the subject of a demonstration of the merits of hippo therapy by being positioned on a moving horse – an exercise geared towards encouraging stability, strength, flexibility and posture.  The youngster visibly enjoyed the experience so much that when one of the physiotherapists attempted to dismount from his ride, it was with an understandable reluctance on his part.

Basically meaning horse therapy, hippo therapy is said to improve function in mobility through participation in daily activity, language and communication and emotional and social well-being.  Utilizing the horse as treatment modality, the trio branches of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy are integrated within pre and post assessment treatments.  So that patients not only attend rehabilitation sessions at clinics but have to complement those by having fortnightly contacts with the horses at the centre – thus translating to Mafokate’s institution as not just for those with designs set on sporting escapades, but simultaneously as one for healing purposes!

Of all recognitions garnered over half a century, Mafokate pere rates a most recent accolade as a cut above the rest – a medal conferred on him and former footballer, Lucas Ntuba Radebe, in April 2019. 

A very appealingly crafted souvenir, it has the following inscribed onto it:  Witwatersrand Agricultural Society, Enos Mafokate, Rand Show Gold Medal, Recognition for Outstanding Contribution to the South African Community.  The bottom part reads: 125th Celebration Limited edition 5/125.  

You cannot help but take an immediate liking to the septuagenarian jetsetter who has literally played with the royalty of Life. 

At once disarming and welcoming, the country’s very first Black show jumper who was the only equestrian competitor in the South African team at Barcelona, has rode for the horse-loving Maponya family (a picture on the centre’s wall depicted him with Richard’s late wife, Marina posing next to a triumphant Enos and a horse after a race) and in addition to having been paid a courtesy visit by fellow show-jumper, Princess Anne, had also been both a guest of Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales (at a polo meet) in the United Kingdom.

Celebrating 40 years of having partook in the Pietermaritzburg Royal Agricultural Show for the first time, the story of Mafokate’s genesis with horses has become the stuff of legend and frankly has a touch of risibility, especially when imagined within the prevailing background of the time back in the early sixties when a young Enos was herding cattle on a donkey around the Rivonia area – a much far cry from the latter day one. 

The enterprising African youngster basically managed to convince a White peer he came across to let him “test ride” his horse whilst the former momentarily swapped his mount for his donkey.  Subsequent to that encounter, Mafokate never looked back and after some 56 years which saw the nabbing of his politically active neighbours on Liliesleaf (Sisulu and company), the demise of grand apartheid and the heralding of Democracy in 1994 – Kgosi ya Dipere gallops forth!

That the Soweto Equestrian Centre thrives on is in no less a part attributed to industry partners such as Debbie Copeman’s Milmac, a major sponsor which was involved in its fourth Mandela Day. 

A big truck was parked by the stables’ gate containing precious cargo of eco fibre (strands of coconut husk), horse cubes, hay, stable shavings and branded t-shirts.  Donating horse feed to the centre every month, the entity contributes selflessly and it association with the centre bears testimony to the bridges Mafokate continues building not – as he’s wont to pointing out – for his personal prestige, but as a lasting legacy which will continue on long after he’s no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the 28 hectares Soweto land.

Yet another testament of the friendships he has cultivated over a lengthy period of time came in the form of a duo of six-year old, briskly-looking stallions named Downtown Abbey and Black Diamond.  On the day, Mafokate had them paraded to the gathered crowd at the centre. 

Gifts from a Mooi River, Kwa-Zulu Natal acquaintance named Jacky Pappas, Mafokate spoke with pride regarding their age, alluding to this as being quality additions to his stables.

After the parade, Mafokate friendly obliged a media request for photographs with the gift horses – with his son, Arthur posing alongside him whilst holding onto the strap of one.

Aptly, the programme director on the day, put proceedings into context by quoting the figurehead after whom the day named: “Sport has the power to change the world.  It has the power to inspire.  It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.  It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”

The development team which represented South Africa in the ’92 Olympiad, with Mafokate and Meyer in it, certainly could attest to the unity Madiba alluded to and whilst Mafokate may no longer be a spring chicken, the legacy he continues manufacturing on a plot of land in Rockville, is one for the youth pursuing their aspirations in 2019 and beyond.

The grandfatherly host, South Africa’s king of horses then bade guests to the centre’s main building where, inside a dining hall, welcome large pots of steaming varieties of soup and loaves of breads awaited them to feast on, of a winter day where one man’s vision and role ensures that that which Madiba espoused – lives on!      

Image Jacob MAWELA (Soweto Equestrian Centre founder, Enos Mafokate posed for press photographs with his son, Kwaito exponent Arthur Mafokate and two horses gifted to him, Downtown Abbey and Black Diamond, on Mandela Day – Rockville- Soweto). 

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