The news of the untimely passing away of Orlando Pirates and Absa Premiership Chairman, Dr. Irvin Khoza’s wife, Mme Yvonne Mantoa Khotleng-Khoza, shook the football fraternity and must surely have dealt the family a terrible blow.
It was, therefore, befitting that the League, GladAfrica and MultiChoice Diski Challenge all observed a moment of silence in their games following this unfortunate development. Furthermore, it was also equally impressive to see Orlando Pirates grab all three points against Highlands Park in their first home game since the departure of the club’s ‘Mother’.
Losing a life-partner can’t be easy, it becomes even tougher when it happens to someone everyone is looking up to for inspiration, motivation, encouragement, guidance, and advice. That’s what Dr. Khoza has become to South Africa! Where do you begin to comfort your comforter? What do you say to the one person you always run to when things are going upside down, knowing they will always find a way out, when it is their time of need? I’m sure these are just some of the questions those close to the Colonel were asking themselves after hearing of the sad news of his wife’s passing. Sometimes we forget that people we look up to also go through the very same challenges that we run to them for. We, unwittingly, tend to think they are immune to the day-to-day challenges faced by the ordinary citizens.
Ironically, Mme Khoza’s passing comes a few days after the Iron Duke gave a glowing eulogy to one of the pioneers of black business and empowerment, Dr. Richard Maponya. What stood out for me was Dr. Khoza’s acknowledgment of Mrs. Maponya’s contribution and her own legacy, something that seldom gets recognised when a popular male figure is either celebrated or commemorated. The Iron Duke said, in part, “You and Marina broke ceilings and created confidence. The Beauty Pageants she organised created confidence to the Black Girl Child at a time when they were the most marginalised. We need the modern-day Daphne Gxoyiya and Pat Mkhize - the owners of black beauty - to continue the laudable work that was done at the time.”
How many people even knew Dr. Maponya’s wife and what she’s done for her immediate community of Soweto? Who knows what she’s sacrificed of herself in order to support her husband become the household name that he became before departing on this earth? I ask these questions because, more often than not, we tend to celebrate the Irvin Khozas, Kaizer Motaungs and other prominent male figures of this world with scant recognition of the important role played by their life-partners in helping them become who they are today. Despite their sacrifices and support for their husbands, women always take a back seat and most of the time get reduced to just ‘hangers-on’ to their famous husbands. Only a select few get to know about the important role played by these and other women of integrity. While Dr Khoza is running around, taking care of national duty – be it for the League or South African Football Association – someone has had to keep the fires burning at home and that’s where the role of the wife comes in. Just because Kaizer, for instance, has a work trip overseas, it doesn’t mean his family life stops – someone like Mme Valeta Motaung has to ensure that their home doesn’t just become a house, in her husband’s absence. She even sacrifices her own personal goals in order to keep the family intact.
People still celebrate the legendary Jomo Sono’s good gesture to ‘abandon’ his wife, Gail, during their wedding at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Soweto, surprising the guests with his announcement that he was needed at Orlando Stadium, where Pirates were trailing Highlands Park 2-0. It is well-documented that Sono created three goals and scored one to lead his team to a strong comeback win. Do you think Gail would’ve allowed that to happen on what was supposed to be the best day of their lives if she didn’t support her husband? Do you even comprehend how important a wedding day is to a woman, for her to sacrifice a couple of her hours in order for her husband to go and fulfill his wish to help his struggling team? Honestly, if Mrs. Sono didn’t want Bra J to go to the stadium and play, none of that would’ve happened.
While the gesture will go down as one of the highlights and probably a sign of loyalty and commitment to the club, to this day, thousands of the very same supporters who were thrilled and still glorify Bra J for his ‘sacrifice’ walk past his wife at the malls not even recognising her. These are just some of the examples of things women like Mme Khoza had to put up with to ensure that their husbands thrived and, ultimately, provided broad smiles to the faces of South African football supporters. It is such a selfless act that mostly goes unnoticed by the very same people it is intended for. We need to start showing much more appreciation to these women of substance because what we see of these giants of South African football would only remain a dream without the support of their wives.
Strength to ntate Khoza and the family in their hour of need. May Mme Khoza’s spirit rest peacefully. She’s run her race and left a mark to those who were fortunate enough to be around her. She may be gone, but she will never be forgotten.