15 February 2023, marked the 79th birthday of iconic local equestrian guru ntate Enos Mosotho Mafokate. He was born on the 15th of February in 1944, at 5th Avenue Alexandra Township. I get the correct date from him verbally, as his identity document (ID) wrongfully states 1946. Such misleading details are not surprising as those were the heydays of racial oppression, even though 1944 predated the official adoption of apartheid as government policy (under the leadership of General James Barry Munnik (JBM) Hertzog’s (1866 – 1942) National Party (NP), the building blocks of apartheid were already firmly in place. It ought to be recalled that the NP was an Afrikaner ethnic ‘nationalist party’ which single-mindedly promoted the interests of Afrikaners in South Africa. As the custodians of apartheid, the NP governed South Africa from the 4th of June 1948, spanning the period until the 9th of May 1994. The latter details are critical in attempts to comprehend that ntate Enos Mafokate was treated as just another kaffir (a heathen incapable of achieving much due to their pigmentation as black, instead of their inability).
Ntate Enos Mafokate’s 79th birthday programme comprised of both outdoor and indoor sessions. The outdoor items were led by Ms Katlego Mafokate (the eldest grand-daughter of ntate Enos Mafokate, who was taught to ride horses by her grandfather from the tender age of 10). Ms Katlego introduced Ms Moipone Twala to deliver an opening prayer to kick-start the birthday celebrations. Katlego then highlighted to the guests, who comprised of a cohort of learners and teachers from the Winnie Mandela School and broader community members (from Soweto and elsewhere) that an interview was to follow between ntate Enos Mafokate and myself, while others attendees were to engage in horse riding. The next item was a drama piece acted out by the students of Winnie Mandela School, ending the outdoor session. All present were then invited into the indoor hall of the Soweto Equestrian Centre. Ntate Enos Mafokate changed into a formal suit and tie, and his dapper look complimented the birthday decorations on the walls and tables, which were colourfully laced out across the venue. Ntate Enos Mafokate towered over a chocolate flavoured cake which was topped with the number 79, and addressed his audience, setting the tone for the celebratory occassion. Then entrepreneur and avid horse rider Mr Muzi Kunene III was called up, and he imparted a few words of support to ntate Enos Mafokate and the budding horse riders in the audience. He expressed to me his wish for the establishment of a polo team from Soweto. Ms Katlego Mafokate returned to announce two pleasant surprises, the gift of a portrait of ntate Enos Mafokate from the Winnie Mandela School, drawn by one of their learners, and a jovial performance of three uplifting songs, sung by a coterie of the Soweto Creative Arts group. The absence of Ward 33 councillor Nompumelelo Mazibuko, as was listed on the program, led to ntate Enos Mafokate formally ending the session, with words of thanks and announcements.
In 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics in Spain, ntate Enos Mafokate was selected as the first black South African show jumper to accompany the South African squad. Then in 2007 the City of Johannesburg (COJ) under Mayor Amos Masondo gifted ntate Enos Mafokate stand no 1679/1680, located on Vundla and the corner of Lefatola, in Moroka, where he built the current riding School as the ‘Enos Mafokate Equestrian Foundation’ and nicknamed ‘Soweto Equestrian Centre’. The latter is a non-profit riding school. Among its chief aims are to improve the welfare of cart horses in Soweto, and to open the elite world of horse riding up to those who cannot afford to ride horses. In our interview ntate Enos Mafokate explained that, “We work with autistic children from Adelaide Tambo School for the Physically Challenged. Working with such kids has led to the Soweto Equestrian Centre forging a working relationship with a Horse Therapy center in Honeydew. Our major clients include the Winnie Madikizela Mandela School, the Mohato School for Autism in Naledi, and the Molalatladi Primary School. It is fulfilling to host kids, who come to ride freely at the center from all over Soweto.” He lamented the lack of government support.