A shoemaker who mended souls

2018-02-01 06:00
HOUSE OF TRUTHThembile Ndabeni

HOUSE OF TRUTHThembile Ndabeni

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This is a tribute to a man who was affectionately called “Shoe” by all and sundry in Langa. A man possessed of meagre means but a good heart.

He was called “Shoe” because he plied his trade as a shoemaker in Langa.

In rugby circles, he was simply called “Shoe me”.

He passed away on 10 December 1987, three decades ago. His real name was Rini Maphasa.

After recently bumping into Shoe’s wife and son, including his daughter, a thought hit me.

Why not pen an article in Shoe’s memory, I thought, as a means to acknowledge his contribution to the community of Langa and beyond.

Shoe was a gentleman in all respects. He was one of those business people who could not bear to charge clients an arm and a foot for his services.

This beautiful piece of humanity would do that with a smile on his face. That is how he made a living!

I recall that as a school going lad, I was one of the many beneficiaries of his golden heart.

Shoe was a family man with a wife and children, and I wondered what he was taking home at the end of all the “free service” to others.

Shoe bears testimony to the past belief that Africans might not have had money, but they had a heart.

Blessed are those who are prepared to sacrifice everything they have, or break bread from the little they have, for others. I could not help but notice then that some of the shoes he fixed were beyond repair, but he would painstakingly “resurrect” them.

It seemed Shoe really applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the shoes.

Still, if the clients pleaded pennylessness, Shoes would hand over the revived product without charge.

However, Shoes may not have been regarded highly by some, but to those who came into contact with him, he was the ultimate hero in their eyes.

In the Bible it is written that “You can have everything, but if you are devoid of love, you are just as vacuous,”.

Love heals. And is the basis of everything else.

Love gives us a smile, laughter, happiness, relief, and fulfilment.

Shoe’s love embodied all of the above.

He was a friend to everybody. That he passed on before the advent of our democracy deprived us and him the opportunity to meet that other icon of virtue, Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela.

The IsiXhosa phrase: “isitya esihle asidleli”, aptly described the towering figure- figuratively speaking- we have come to know as Shoes.

Sadly, he passed on before people like me were able to show him their appreciation. Take this little piece of writing to serve as a token of appreciation.

I hope this will have a bearing to his family.

I was really touched when I saw his wife Mam’ uMaphasa, who is laso called after her clan, Madlomo.

I hope this is not the last you have heard from me to this family.

As an advocate of the preservation of History as a subject, I wish to argue that people like the late Shoe should be part of or be a component of Social History.

In the main body of History, educators should give children assignments on community events and people who shaped communities, which should not be limited to the known, but to the lesser known too. Over and above, Shoe must be recognised by naming a business centre or a street after him.

When we had nothing, Shoes gave us love. While busy on the soles of our shoes, he was also fixing our souls.

He saved our soles, thus our souls.

“Shumie translated to “shoe me there”, which was apt then.

This tribute also goes to mama Madlomo, in the spirit of the soul, thank you for granting us a man of such stature.


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