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Humble Kagiso lawyer's rags to riches story

By unknown | Nov 26, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

It is a remarkable "can do" attitude and a story that makes the heart sing with joy and reaffirm the biblical adage: Go to the ants, you sluggard. Learn their ways and be wise.

It might sound like a cliche, but the story of Themba Langa, Man of Letters and the Law, is a classic rags to riches story.

The dream began on the dusty streets of Kagiso township on the West Rand many moons ago. A young man, wise beyond his years, was moved by the likes of the late Oliver Tambo, Stephen Bantu Biko and Nelson Mandela.

"I've always admired these giants," he told me in the comfort of his made-for-the-pages of Home and Decor magazine home in an exclusive part of Florida, west of Jozi.

It is a million light years from his humble beginnings in the ghetto.

When he spoke of Tambo, in particular, his eyes shone: "It is mind-boggling, for Tambo to have achieved what he did. He built the ANC into a formidable political force while in exile, while the apartheid apparatus was gunning for him."

Later on, when he was certain what his career path would be, the main influences in his life were men like Dikgang Moseneke and Pius Langa, two trailblazers in the legal arena.

Like most black kids growing up in the townships, it was hard slog for him all the way. There were times, he told me, when he went to school on an empty stomach.

But thanks to those challenging times: they taught the younger man the beauty of the African spirit of ubuntu - the generosity of black people to give without regard to reward.

Because of his political activism, Themba Langa was going to be a Human Rights lawyer just like his heroes, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. But it didn't turn out that way. Instead, just about the time he was sinking his teeth into the human rights-related side of the law, Mandela was released.

"Democracy comes with huge responsibilities, and to rebuild the country, business had to play a vital role. We were no longer the pariahs of the world.

"We had to reincorporate our economy into that of the global village. Corporate governance plays a vital role in this regard," Langa added.

Langa saw a gap and that changed his life forever.

After matriculating, he trekked to Fort Hare to do a junior degree in law. He then proceeded to the University of Natal for his LLB, followed by a Higher Diploma in Tax and Company Law from Wits.

"There were times when my family survived on the kindness of a local shopkeeper, Vuki Matshoba, who gave us stuff on credit," he recalled.

Uncle Vuki did not just help feed the Langas, thanks to his selflessness Themba, the hot-shot attorney, is now paying back into his community.

Since 2002, until last year, his law firm has been active in supporting various charities, particularly those based on the West Rand. Their projects include the School Hunger Project that until last year, delivered food (bread and spread) to sixty schools in the area.

Between 2004 and 2005, Langa and his team distributed about 2000 blankets to local pupils.

The first time I met Langa was a month ago. Though his face was somehow familiar, I could not place him, but I knew I had seen that face before.

You don't forget a face like that: pronounced forehead, clear white eyes that seem to look deep into your soul. The rich, dark skin radiates with the good fortune of good health.

I had wondered into Kagiso on the West Rand under protest. A photographer friend was doing some freelance work with a major international IT company that was donating computers.

It was midday, the scorching sun blazing when Langa and a few other suited guys sauntered into the tent where we had taken refugee. Yeah, I had seen that face before. Probably on TV, or was it in the newspapers?

Ah, well.

It all came together later. Eureka. I knew it.

This Langa, it is he who is the modern-day gladiator who slays corporate dragons in the jungles of the corporate world. Yes, it is he who breaks bread with the soccer aristocracy and still finds time to leave it all behind to attend an occasion as mundane as a donation to a school.

It all came back in a flash. I had seen the man before, all robed and business-like, leaving a Johannesburg court like a conquering hero, with former Orlando Pirates player Benedict Vilakazi. He was the player's hope to beat the rap in one of his many tangles with the law.

Every team in the professional league and its lower divisions seems to covet the skills and expertise of this Kagiso-born lawyer.

He has represented teams such as Kaizer Chiefs, Ria Stars, Jomo Cosmos and Black Leopards among others.

Besides tax and company law, Langa and his firm are among the few practising Sports Law firms in this country.

When, we finally eye-balled each other in the comfort of his house, surrounded by tomes of good literature like Mark Gevisser's biography on Thabo Mbeki, The Dream Deferred and Mandela: The Authorised Portraits by various global luminaries, among others.

Langa is married to Tumi and they have a 10-year-old daughter, Koketso. There is still hunger in his belly - goals to achieve and mountains to conquer.

The next terrain for Langa and his law firm is to assist municipalities in stimulating their economic growth, particularly in formalising the township spaza business and finding suitable partners interested in setting up business in the townships.

To me that sounded like the long-awaited industrialisation of townships which for too long have been reservoirs of cheap labour.

Go man, go.


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