The community of Chiawelo in Soweto still fondly remembers President Cyril Ramaphosa as a child.
They also remember Ramaphosa, who was born and raised there, as a “principled man” and a renowned activist in the community.
The principals of the schools he attended in the area said he still frequently visited the community and supported both schools and their communities through his foundation.
Ramaphosa’s former schools, Sekano-Ntoane Secondary School and Tshilidzi Primary School, are in the heart of Soweto, in Chiawelo, which was also home to several other anti-apartheid struggle activists.
The current principal at Tshilidzi, Thinawanga Takalani, 52, grew up just down the road from the birth home of the president, whose family was well known as coal traders in the area.
“He was known as someone who would stand his ground, a principled person who had morals and was always encouraging people around the location to study hard.
“He would say to them ‘I will only assist you when you are working hard to achieve whatever it is you want’.”
Situated not far from his former primary school, Ramaphosa’s high school has several other claims to fame in the form of other politicians, artists and television personalities who also went there.
Principal Ntshadi Mokoena said the school’s heritage gives its pupils much to be proud of and was a source of inspiration to the community.
“Once you mention all the leaders who attended this school, it gives them something to look forward to. It says that even if you attend a school in the location you can be a better person in the future,” she said.
The ex-pupils list includes Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, former Gauteng MEC for social development Bob Mabaso, Gauteng sports, arts, culture and recreation MEC Faith Mazibuko and the late broadcaster Vuyo Mbuli.
“As the school, we want to congratulate Mr Ramaphosa and ask him to come back to the school and motivate the pupils.
“We have a relationship with the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation which, for the past three years, has given bursaries to the best students. So although he hasn’t been to the school, we still have that relationship,” Mokoena said.
Thinawanga said his pupils looked up to Ramaphosa.
“He is a role model to the pupils here. The programmes he has been running also help a lot. Through them we can interact with advantaged people who can share ideas.”