Family, bikers celebrate Afronaut's life at memorial service

2019-07-10 17:27
Mandla Maseko. (Facebook)

Mandla Maseko. (Facebook)

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Family, friends and colleagues of Mandla Maseko, the first black African who would have travelled to space, remembered him as a shining star. 

The 30-year-old Maseko's memorial was held at the Airforce Base in Swartkop, Pretoria on Wednesday where scores of mourners gathered. 

His cousin, Motshele Mampane, told a packed hall that as young as he was, Maseko had achieved a lot in his short life and made his family proud. 

"Talking about such a young and motivated young man is so difficult. I remember when he won to go to space, the family was very proud. You can imagine [that] in South Africa our surname was talked [about] everywhere," Mampane said. 

Maseko beat 1 million people to become one of 23 people who won a seat sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy, on an hour-long sub-orbital trip in 2014.

He died on Saturday after being hit by a car while riding his motorcycle, News24 reported

Mampane said females dominated her family and for it to have had one of its male grandchildren recognised globally, was a proud moment. 

Although Maseko's trip to space will now never happen, Mampane said God planned that he would achieve all he did in his short time on earth.

"I know it is very difficult. It is difficult because in my family this is the first time we lose a grandchild and we never thought, but it has happened," she said. 

Maseko was also an avid biker with the Tshwane Legend Bikers club. His biker colleagues were also present at the memorial to honour him. 

Club president Somkhaliphi Mahlangu described Maseko as a loving and humble person.

He said while bikers were often referred to as "thugs, hooligans and heartbreakers", that was not the case with their club.

"If that was so true, Mandla would not have been part of us because [he] was very particular. He would not have associated himself with thugs and hooligans and heartbreakers...," said Mahlangu. 

He said the love, care and community work done by bikers was what enticed Maseko to join. 

Mahlangu said the club would award Maseko an "honorary membership status".

He added that a framed waistcoat with "TLB colours" will be handed over to the family in his honour. 

Maseko will be buried on Saturday at the Zandfontein cemetery in Pretoria. 

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