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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Its sad that athletics legends are mostly forgotten' - Morake steps in to help paralysed Rami Tsebe

In his seminal work on The Golden Age of South African distance running entitled Three men named Matthews, Richard Mayer expertly writes: "1990 was an exciting time for South African athletics and the country as a whole. The shock release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the unbanning of the African National Congress in February ushered in the prospect of democracy and the normalisation of South Africa's social and political life. From a sporting point of view, the impending demise of apartheid promised a return to international competition." 1990 was also Rami Tsebe's best year.

Born on the 7th of October 1966, Rami was one half of the nation's most dominant pair of running siblings before the Phalulas. The elder of the brother of David Tsebe who famously won the 1992 Berlin Marathon, Rami was a top runner of international quality in his own right, a fact which he made known in 1990.

The Tsebe Brothers during their heyday. The brothers from Rustenburg in the North West Province are seen here in September 1990. Photo Credit: Newspaper clippling from Saturday Star as archived by Richard Mayer.

That year he finished second behind his brother in a thrilling SA Half Marathon Championships race. The Tsebe brothers were given the same finishing time of 1:01:03, with David dipping Rami on the line. In 1990, Rami also ran a lifetime best 43:22 for 15km in Belville Cape Town, while also winning a highly competitive Nashua 10km Challenge in Durban in 28:20 during which he bested his brother, the great Matthews Motswarateu and world class half marathoner Adam Motlagale.

Yet not much has been heard about Rami Tsebe since those heady days of distance running, leaving many to wonder about what ever happened to this legend of South African athletics. 1992 Two Oceans Marathon champion Israel Morake managed to track him down and found him sickly and paralysed. Assisted by another legends Xolile Yawa and the Fortress Running Series ambassador decided to help.

Morake assists Rami Tsebe into his new wheelchair as journalist Matshelane Mamabolo looks on. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"The Tsebe Brothers are runners who ran during my generation. Since I was missing them, I to stood up and look for them. We found Rami first and we found him in a critical condition. We went to look for help which was urgently needed because everything was not right. We went out and spoke to legends like Victor Ngobeni who assisted with supplements and later Xolile Yawa donated a wheelchair."

Morake hopes that this will be the beginning of concerted efforts to trace the top runners of yesteryear. "We still need more help because we still need to create a conducive environment for wheelchair mobility. Mr. Sam Molokomme has also offered assistance which will be used later. I was very happy to find Rami alive. Sadly I found him not in a good state of health. It's sad that athletics legends are mostly forgotten, therefore it's our duty to take over."

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