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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Mathebula runs for school kids

Themba Mathebula's journey from rural child to captain of industry is not an uncommon one in modern day South Africa. Like former City of Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and others before him, Mathebula's triumph over an impoverished upbringing is the sort of romantic tale that inspires many village youngsters about what is possible with a bit of determination and hard work. But what is perhaps different about this corporate manager is that he has never forgotten where he comes from nor is he ashamed of it.

Mathebula (left) on his 450km journey from Centurion to Bushbuckridge.

"Coming from poverty-stricken family background, I knew I was not a special case and had vowed that I will come back to lend a hand to those that need it most," were Mathebula's words upon completing an epic 450km run from Johannesburg to Bushbuckridge in 12 days between the 4th - 15th of December. The odyssey was a fundraising initiative to ensure that children who may not know where their next meal is coming from at least have the comfort of knowing they will have shoes and sanitary towels when schools reopen.

"It was natural then to link my passion for running to benefit a good cause that is closest to my heart – access to education," said the Irene Athletics Club runner who also revealed that running may have saved his life. " I was not always a runner. There was a point in my life where I was obese and could barely run 200 meters. I decided to adopt an active lifestyle to shed excess weight, and have since lost over 25% of my body weight." That was more than five years ago and he's never looked back.

Mathebula arriving in his home village of Bushbuckridge.

His target was to raise R60 000 to provide for 450 vulnerable children in his hometown of Bushbuckridge, but overwhelming support from friends, family and the running community saw him collect over R100 000. The 36-year-old social runner believes growing up in poverty is what pushed him to give back to the children in need while exercising his passion for running.

The fundraising may have been trouble-free but the run wasn't all plain sailing. Mathebula says they encountered a lot of challenges while covering 450km distance, chief amongst them being the extremely hot and humid lowveld conditions. But buoyed by the enthusiasm of having achieved his goal, he is now hoping to make the run being an annual event.

"Yes, the plan is to make the initiative an annual event so that we can raise more money and help more schoolchildren in need across the country. The aim would be to extend the assistance sustainably, starting with needy communities in Mpumalanga province and gradually extending to all provinces. "

Mathebula, who works as the Communications and Corporate Reputation Management Principal Specialist at Vodacom applauded the sponsors that made his run possible including Vodacom, Icon’s Journey Marathon, Imbumba Foundation, Henley Business School, Lend a Hand, Boo Yah Marketing agency, and 32Gi.

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