'I've received nothing but love and acceptance': Catzavelos on community service in Soweto

Adam Catzavelos arrives for a previous appearance at the Randburg Magistrate's Court on May 28 2019.
Adam Catzavelos arrives for a previous appearance at the Randburg Magistrate's Court on May 28 2019.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

Adam Catzavelos says doing community service in Orlando East, Soweto, made him realise that black people are forgiving.

Catzavelos, who took the stand in mitigation of sentence at the Randburg magistrate's court on Thursday, told the court he had become a “better” person since doing community service at the Seth Mazibuko Foundation.

He told the court he had completed 100 hours of community service.

Catzavelos said the foundation had taught him a lot about black people's struggles and had taken him to slain political activist Chris Hani's grave. He also got to learn about Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, who died in police custody.

He said he had told the “Gogos” and “Mkhulus” that he worked with, that he would go back to see them even after his community service was over.

“I've received nothing but love and acceptance in the communities. It's a big thing for me to be accepted,” said Catzavelos.

The foundation's founder, Seth Mazibuko, described Catzavelos as a “Saul becoming a Paul”. He said he was initially reluctant to work with Catzavelos. “It took me time. I asked myself if I want to work with a man whose grandparents might have used the word,” Mazibuko said.

He demonstrated to Catzavelos how he himself was tortured and called the k-word during apartheid. Catzavelos did not know who Steve Biko was before doing community service, Mazibuko said.

He took Catzavelos to elderly people, believing they had suffered most being called k****s during apartheid.

“When I said to him, 'Adam I want to use you to demonstrate reconciliation,' he said: 'I'm game'," said Mazibuko.

Mazibuko told the court that a jail term would not serve Catzavelos any purpose.

“I'd like to use Adam more for reconciliation. I would like to use Adam more to apologise to the people of South Africa,” said Mazibuko.

He said though he had heard about the video, he had not seen it until Catzavelos showed it to him. It made him “angry and bitter”, he said.

The case continues. 

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