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Iconic SA poet Don Mattera praised

Don Mattera during the launch of the Don Mattera Foundation in Eldorado park, south of Johannesburg, on Saturday. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Don Mattera during the launch of the Don Mattera Foundation in Eldorado park, south of Johannesburg, on Saturday. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Politicians, poets and musicians gathered in Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, to pay tribute to legendary writer and anti-apartheid activist Don Mattera.

Hundreds of people attended the launch of Mattera's foundation at the Don Mateman community hall.

The guest list included high-profile politicians such as former president Kgalema Motlanthe, former speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete and former first lady Zanele Mbeki. Journalists trained by Mattera were also present at the event.

Painting the mission of his foundation with his signature style of speaking, Mattera said his heart was wailing for the children of South Africa.

"They call me the bud of compassion because I became the patron of the South African organisation that looks after children.

"The Mattera family, they fought, they looked after children. We must go out of our way to protect the child otherwise there won't be a country again tomorrow," said Mattera.

He told the crowd, who were captured by his presentation, that he had suffered brutal harassment from the apartheid regime for his defence of "the African" identity. Mattera ended his speech by warning against the dangers of racial classification.

"Please, we do not want to see another war or killing among the colours. They are Africans. They are people. Give them their dignity."

Deputy minister of sports, arts and culture, Nocawe Mafu, said the department would work closely with the Don Mattera Foundation to produce more young poets and artists. Mafu said the department was working with the community of Eldorado Park to address the issue of drugs among young people.

"We fight those seeking to destroy the future by selling illicit drugs to our youth. Like any youth, Ntate Don Mattera was subjected to all the temptations of being a young person but soon found his way and realised that the future lies with him making sure that he was part of the generation that fought for Sophiatown to survive," Mafu said.

Poet and cultural activist professor Pitika Ntuli also paid tribute to Mattera.

''They knew how dangerous a human being you are, they silenced you, they banned you, you could not read your poem, write your poem," he said.

Mattera's son Teddy said he would continue his father's legacy through his film-making. "Much of my film work is reflected under his narratives, I'm also an academic looking at literary works. My PhD looks at how we as black people have been represented in cinema," Teddy said .

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