Few people alive today can say they do not know, have never met, or heard of the indelible Tatane Daniel D Dhliwayo, who is popularly known as ‘DD’ - whether in his capacity as a businessman, former chairman of Orlando Pirates FC - and most important of all, as the former school principal of Leratong Primary School, in Orlando East, Soweto.
Dhliwayo who turns 95 today, comes from the good old stock leadership of teachers who were revered, who thrived even during the apartheid era - and who therefore, given their sterling contribution to society - now an intergral part and parcel of black history.
These are the likes of the late Mathematicians Wilkie Thamsanqa Kambule and Kaizer Harvey, the late Washington Mposula, Curtis Nkondo, and Aggrey Mbathane.
In the late ’60s, alongside Kambule, Dhliwayo founded the Rand Bursary Fund to help needy students further their studies. Through media support from the now-defunct Rand Daily Mail newspaper, the pair were offered space to advertise bursary opportunities and to raise funds through the newspaper.
At some point in their careers, some of these good teachers decided to get involved in soccer, especially with Orlando Pirates, at the time when the club was truly a people's team and soccer was still a game led by gentlemen, back in the 1970s.
Mbathane, a school principal, was elected chairman of Orlando Pirates FC, and Mposula, also a principal, his vice-chairman. When Mbathane died in a car crash in Sasolburg, Free State, on May 5, 1975, Mposula was then elected chairman of the club and Dhliwayo vice-chairman, Shakes Tshabalala (former Bafana Bafana coach) became secretary and Maviyo Ngcobo (former school teacher) his vice-secretary.
Tragically the beautiful game was hijacked by thugs, and when Mposula was shot and killed in his home, the cold-blooded murder sent shock waves throughout the Soweto community, and the soccer fraternity.
When Dhliwayo succeeded Mposula as chairman of the club, the general sweep of sentiment at the time, was that, he is a brave man.
The nonagenarian, “DD” as he is affectionately called by his close friends and colleagues, was also instrumental when he was chairman of the Buccaneers, turning it into one of South Africa's largest football clubs and developing local soccer through securing sponsors and contributing to the football fraternity.
During his tenure, he worked and mentored a number of soccer legends, such as Jomo Sono, who also got his first unprecedented overseas offer, which at the time tied Dhliwayo into knots when he was unable to decide quickly whether to accept or not.
Upon retiring and after serving the education department for 40 years, Dhliwayo became another trailblazer when he started, probably the first black-owned, low-cost private schools in Orlando East Soweto, namely DD Dhliwayo Primary School and DD Dhliwayo Senior Primary School.
The schools catered for Soweto, Orange Farm, Kagiso and Voslorous. Through these schools, he pioneered a sustainable and affordable education model for access to quality education for black people. These centres of excellence educated thousands of children in the ‘90s and early 2000's. But after running for some time, the Gauteng Education Department declared them illegal and closed them down.
Today friends, family and former colleagues of “DD” will gather at his Zone 4 Pimville home, to honour the family man and community leader for his eminent contribution to the community
On Monday, he said he feels blessed to live to be healthy at 95 years of age.
“95 years is no child’s play. In my 95 years of living, not once have I fallen ill. In a difficult time, we are all living in, I am truly blessed to be surrounded by my loved ones. I am glad I’ve touched the many lives in my work, all my life. It is all thanks to God,” he said.
His son Kutlwano said his dad is one of many hidden gems of unsung heroes that the Soweto township produced, and in this time of such uncertainty and tumultuousness, the family thought it fitting that they remember those that came before them.
“It is an absolute honour to celebrate my father today. He’s played such an impactful role in the education and sports sector. He has dedicated all his life to serving. To honour him while he’s alive is a blessing - to not speak of him in past tense as many have lost their loved ones to Covid-19.
“This is just to say, ‘thank you. You are one of many unsung heroes in this country and you ought to be celebrated.’ He has taught us so much over the years. We have learned so much from him. We take lessons of always remaining humble, lessons of giving back to the community in any way you can, and making a difference. We are indebted to him,” said Kutlwano.
(additional research by Vuka Tshabalala)