THEY DON’T CALL HIM ‘KING’ FOR NOTHING

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By Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane 

  • Malesela Mokonyama, also known as King Sebetha, exudes regal athleticism as he discusses his philanthropic endeavours and athletic achievements outside a hotel in Mbombela, Mpumalanga Province.
  • Founder of the Centenary Walk for Tata Foundation, Mokonyama advocates against social issues like Gender-Based Violence, Substance Abuse, Teenage Pregnancy, and Xenophobia through extensive campaign walks spanning hundreds of kilometres across South Africa.
  • Beyond his charitable pursuits, Mokonyama is an esteemed athlete and unchallenged record-holder in the men’s 400-metre race at the Active Ageing Programme’s Golden Games, exemplifying the importance of staying active and engaged for emotional, mental, and physical well-being, particularly among the elderly.

He is casual in his demeanour as he catches some air outside his hotel in Mbombela, Mpumalanga Province. There is, however, an aura of royalty to the tall, slightly mature, and extremely fit gentleman. There is no doubt that he is an athlete of sorts. 

His gold beard and hair, give a sense that he is in touch with what is currently trending. “I am Malesela Mokonyama from Polokwane. On the track, they call me King Sebetha. I am the founder of the Centenary Walk for Tata Foundation; a Non-Profit Organisation I established in 2018. 

“The foundation’s purpose is to travel the country raising funds and awareness about social ills. On 5 July 2023, for example, I embarked on a two-week campaign walk from the Polokwane Smelters Mine via Mogalakwena. I ended in the Polokwane Local Municipality Jack Botes Hall on 18 July,” he says the walk amounted to over 700 kilometres.

Messages that I was spreading, and continue to spread during my walks, include: 

  • Gender-Based Violence 
  • Substance Abuse and Teenage Pregnancy 
  • The Importance of Sport and Fitness 
  • Fighting against Xenophobia

Previous walks were in 2015 – 180 kilometres from Polokwane to Bela-Bela;  213 kilometres from Polokwane to Musina and in 2018 when I walked 299.3 kilometres from Mashashane via Polokwane to Tshwane,” says the now 63-year-old. 

He is in Mpumalanga, however, because of his other passion – athletics. “I am an unchallenged record-holder of the 400-metre race in the Active Ageing Programme’s men’s category which we also call the Golden Games,” he expressed hours before taking part in the 400-metre race on the last day of the 2024 Golden Games. He nailed it and won by a large margin. 

“I have been an athlete all my life and I am proud of my peers who, some of whom did not start as early as I did, can compete in games such as these. It takes training and dedication. The government is making an impact on society through initiatives such as the Active Ageing Programme. You need to remember that some over-60s are not employed or have retired so having something to do keeps them emotionally, mentally and physically healthy,” says the actor and voice-over artist who played the role of Ramolao on eTV’s Skeem Saam

He is clearly a man of many talents… they don’t call him king for nothing! 

 

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