Coloured Passmore joins celestial 'Clever' entrepreneurs
IN THE eloquent words of poet Thomas Gray, "many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air".
This truism is real to many township kids, born in poverty, forced to be content in mediocrity and accept their mere survival as a norm instead of striving for success.
When I was still at primary school in Soweto, I was exposed to a totally liberating experience, befriending one Samuel Mdluli, famously, or notoriously, known as Coloured Passmore.
Coloured and I were classmates at a primary school in Zola. Our friendship blossomed as we grew up and took different directions in life. What struck me with him were his intelligence, wit and serious street wisdom. He was not really interested in formal school work, which compromised me a lot as I had to share my homework with him. His dad was a panelbeater and ran a reasonably successful operation. Coloured was more interested in panelbeating than school. He used to drive to school while still at primary level, often driving a client's car brought for repairs.
This situation brought him into conflict with teachers, many of whom could not drive ... or did not own a car. This led him to abandon school quite early in life and joined family businesses which still exist today - run successfully by his younger brother Keke.
Coloured was one of the best dressers, and had very little patience for moegoes who could not colour-coordinate. If you were close to him, he would buy you a full set of clothes as a cue to how you should dress. Needless to say, I was one such recipient.
The stature of Coloured as a businessman grew as his panelbeating operations became known nationally and attracted customers from all over the country.
As usual, the township mgosi of him being the king on ukukokotela, altering engine numbers grew. This notoriety worked for him as it advertised his businesses. The cops became interested in him - but I do not remember him ever being charged and found guilty for these activities.
Another area where Coloured showed his entrepreneurial prowess and leadership was in sport. He took a virtually unknown team, a splinter group from Moroka Swallows Big 15, and built it into a formidable brand that won important competitions in those days, like the Ellerines Cup and the Zambuk League. He ascended quickly when he bought Alexandra Blackpool and campaigned in the prestigious premier first divisions. Blackpool became a household name, producing players such as John "Shoes" Moshoeu, Goma Goma Masango and many others.
When soccer went into turmoil during the days of Cyril Kobus and Abdul Bhamjee, Coloured was left holding the fort, a job he did with diligence. When South Africa was welcomed back into the Fifa fold, he was appointed Bafana Bafana team manager.
In Coloured, I have lost a friend, Soweto has lost a charismatic leader, the "clevers", their pope ... and of course his family has lost a son, brother, father and a towering tree that gave shade.
He will be buried tomorrow at Doornkop Cemetery. The service will be held at Ezibukweni School in Zola from 9am to 12.30pm.
So long bra.