OME 200 kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers from the Soweto neighbourhood of Pimville were treated to a truly memorable Youth Day when friends, family and volunteers of late, former Reuters cameraman, Sipho Maseko hosted them in the annual, Sipho “Msikos” Maseko Outreach charity initiative.
A drive begun by the popular media practitioner, socialite and caring community builder in 2011 and carried through annually even after his untimely passing on at the age of 47 – it has, thanks to members of the society he used to spearhead, his dear family and neighbourhood acquaintances whose lives he touched in various ways, grown from strength to strength as those who survive him continue bearing the torch of his generous nature and ways!
As Soweto and the rest of South Africa woke up on the particular Sunday in remembrance of the 43rd anniversary of the Tsietsi Mashinini-led 16 June 1976 students uprising against the imposition of the language of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at Black schools by the then repressive government, scores of kids of various ages – some by themselves and little ones accompanied hand in hand by their parents and minders – descended on the Maseko family home very early whilst church bells could still be heard chiming!
The order of the day commenced with the young ones forming a queue winding to a table where volunteers registered their personal details in order to create a data base which would ultimately give the organizers of the event an indication of the extent of children in need of interventions such as the one to be carried out on the day.
Having gone through that initial process, the mites were then strapped with wristbands indicating that they stood to benefit from the goodies of the day laid out for their pleasure!
The location where the occasion was unfolding, a mere stone’s throw away from Maponya Mall, was cordoned off from the endless stream of vehicular traffic – with only cars driving onto the hosting family’s corner house to off-load boxes of clothing and shoes, allowed through.
Across the street, in front of the Green Apple Group pub owned by one of the organizers, Jakobo Mpati, there was already a hive of activity from a group of ladies preparing the catering from tables and a food-serving mobile trailer.
The various volunteers – donning printed t-shirts depicting Maseko’s visage and emblazoned with the words, Sipho Maseko: Your Legacy Lives On and On … – went about their tasks with a sense of purpose, as they manoeuvred through the poser of methodically sorting out the parcels by age groups. On the walls fencing the house were a sequence of boards inscribed with various sizes ranging from toddlers, 3-6 years, 7-13, et cetera.
With all of that unfolding by the minute and marshals in reflective fluorescent jackets seeing to the running of procedures, the children who had already being registered and now spotting wristbands, were directed to the trailer where – rather welcoming of a winter morning – the ladies began dishing steaming soup from large pots.
Albeit, the soup was just starters for a long day in which they would also be fed with hotdogs, in addition to being provided with an amusement space featuring the ever popular jumping castle centrepiece – for their indulgence.
In the queue was lovely lady-esque 10-year-old Kerry Mbelu from the nearby Zone 9 section of the neighbourhood. With the Eldorado Park grade 5 pupil was her three-year-old kid sister, LaToya sticking close by her side. Asked what she had come to the event for, the older lass ventured, “I’m hoping to be gifted with clothes,” adding when pressed, “any!”
Across the busy street, sifting through a recently unpacked box of yet more items donated – Mpati indicated whilst keeping a hawk’s eye on operations – by various communities, Maseko’s sister, Deliwe braced to arrange denim pants on the front lawn. Echoing the slogan from the t-shirts, she observed upon inquiry of what the inundation meant for her family, “His legacy continues, we are grateful as a family and hope that this initiative is sustained.”
The continued charity outreach is a manifestation of just the sort of soul Maseko was and for the gaping hole his death left in the community of a place referred by old-timers as “Skomplaas”, it has been heartening over ensuing time that “Ma-Oros” (the socialite clique he helmed and which was the envy of equivalents at other townships spread across Gauteng) have taken up his baton.
For the benefit of readers who might not be au fait with the larger-than-life figure fondly known as “Msikos” – the late cameraman shot to both media and national prominence when some years back whilst on assignment for the Reuters news agency, he filmed compelling footage of rogue soldiers in some conflict-riddled central African country swinging a man from a bridge and into a crocodile-infested river below.
At the time the new footage began filtering onto household television news bulletins, his clip used to be interspersed with a photomontage packaged to illustrate the power of news-gathering in our world.
Maseko was widely interviewed by other media outlets expounding on the personal cost brought to bear upon him – just to record the sadistic scene.
Generous in a great many ways, Maseko was what the Grandpa commercial flighted on television screens allude to as: Kasie starrings! Hailing from a neighbourhood which has been visited by luminaries such as Paul Simon, Celine Dion and Oprah Winfrey, in addition to had been a neighbour of jazz musicians, Barney and Oscar Rachabane – Maseko was, along with homeboy, Vuyo Mbuli and homegirls, Mapaseka Mokwele and Azania Mosaka, a media celebrity in his own right.
His versatility, from substituting the viewfinder of his video camera to taking over the decks (with his own sound system) as the DJ at a social gathering; organizing soccer tournaments at the ground diagonally opposite to his home and to even initiating insignificant gestures such as urging his circle to collect money change in order to buy ginger cakes and soft drinks to indulge in for the hell of it whilst gathered at his mother’s place – was the stuff of folklore!
A homeboy of the author of this piece as well as a fellow media practitioner, a gesture of Maseko’s empathy for others this writer will cherish forever came in the form of being invited by him to be part of a group photographic exhibition (held outdoors around the very same streets the outreach day happens on annually) showcased on Human Rights Day back in 2010, just before the historic FIFA World Cup.
Growing up from the funk genre of the 80’s, Maseko was the quintessential life of a party; the Alpha male along the Madiba line who gave direction to community and societal issues. When he passed on following a short illness and not that very long after the SABC’s Vuyo Mbuli – men who knew him close wept at the cruel hand Mother Nature deals mortals!
Image Jacob MAWELA (Sipho ‘Msikos Maseko’s sister Deliwe, snapped arranging clothes to be donated to needy children (seen queuing in background) at the annual outreach drive initiated by her late brother in Pimville.)