Fanz writer Themba Mashobane (far left) was invited to meet Gauteng Premier David Makura ahead of his state of the province address with other inspiring citizens of the province

Themba Mashobane is a multi-talented writer, cross-country coach, life-skills leadership coach, actor and radio presenter – he is also the Gauteng premier’s pick of a poet! Themba’s poem ‘Kasi for Life’ was chosen by Premier David Makhura to be included in his speech as it spoke to what he believed in.

FunDza interviewed Themba on his achievements, his love of writing and message for young writers.

Where did your writing journey begin?
I think my love of poetry began at school. I did my matric at Sobantu High School in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga. I like to write in isiNdebele as it is my mother-tongue and I am passionate about it.

You have had many achievements in your life. Could you tell us about a few?
Yes, in 2006 I co-authored the book titled Isililo Sembongi published by Vivlia. This year the National Library is publishing my anthology of short stories in isiNdebele: It’s called Ikghuru iphume ngeqhepheni. The English translation is: The tortoise is out of the shell.

What was your first short story?
My first short story was Ayikho Intuthu Esuka Emoyeni. It was broadcast by Ikwekwezi FM in 2007 under the competition that was called ‘’express yourself’’ that was run by all SABC radio stations across the country.

You’ve won awards?
Yes, I hold two National African Languages Olympiad awards in 2002 and 2004 in IsiNdebele under PANSALB and the University Of Pretoria.

What are you doing at the moment in your life, besides writing of course?
Currently I am working as the Assistant Electrician in Staro Process Control at Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, and I’m also studying part-time at Majuba College doing Electrical and Instrumentation.

When did you first hear about FunDza?
It was quite a long time ago, when Mxit was still around. I was browsing on Mxit one day and found the FunDza mobi site. That’s when I started reading Fundza stories and poetry and submitted my first poem called ‘Goodbye’. I’ve written more than 50 poems since then.

What do you think about having FunDza readers, read your work and comment on it?
I grow through the readers’ comments. The readers help you to grow as a writer in the right way. I would like to reply to all of them. I started to reply to readers on my very first poem, “Goodbye” to a reader whose user name is Madlamini. She wrote: “Dat waz greyt very greyt so supercul wow”

I replied: I thank you very much for your support Madlamini…this proves that SA is becoming a reading country your comment tells me that I managed to touch your feelings through writing so I am humble. Stay blessed all the time

What do you like to read?
Mostly poetry. I find other poets inspiring. But I also like to read novels and dramas. My favourite novel is written in isiNdebele. It’s called “Mbala Ngubaba”. I think we need more stories in isiNdebele. I like to read other poems by FunDza writers too.

How did the Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, come to include your poem in his speech?
I had only published my poem ‘Kasi for Life’ on so he must have read it online. The only other way is if someone on his staff read it. But I think he is a FunDza reader.
Only a small percentage of FunDza readers comment so you don’t know who is out there reading on FunDza all the time – even the Premier.

I got an email one evening saying that I should go to meet the premier with other writers, performers and artists before his speech. We met at a hotel in Midrand. It was amazing there were all the South African artists you could think of there: Kwesta, Sliquor, “G-G” who is an author and Zamantungwa.

The premier was really friendly and welcoming. I was one of only two writers. He said he found my poem inspiring and he knew and liked my work. He asked me what my challenges as a young writer were. I told him that it was challenging because I only had my cellphone to write on. I also need more exposure to other writers and need to learn more. I would love to attend a FunDza writing workshop in Gauteng. I am hoping for that day. I do all the online courses on FunDza to help me grow as a writer.

Did you go to hear the Premier’s speech?
I couldn’t go because I was working but I asked my supervisor at work and he let me listen to it on the radio. My colleagues also listened to it and my family. Before the speech they kept asking me when it was coming. They were very proud of me. It gave me recognition and exposure and made me very happy.

What inspired your poem?
I like to write about personal things and about people and things that are happening in my community in the township. I like to write about the positive things that are happening in my community that inspire and touch me. I like to write for the kids growing up in the Kasi and to encourage those who are making our communities better.

Here is an extract:

To all the kasi guys at
corner msawawa fruit shop –
Big up! Our kasi old ladies
At their little braai stands
With their hot runner ways –
I salute.
I salute you because you are
Doing something for your lives.

To kasi kids who are going to school
In those torn shoes and t-shirts make
Life better for yourselves and others
With your pen and paper in that
Vandalised school building.

Read the rest of his poem here

Where and when do you write?
I write whenever I can – on the road, in work breaks, after work. The last poem I wrote was at the bus stop waiting for the bus. I type on my phone, before I forget my thoughts. I write about things I see around me.

What message do you have for FunDza writers?
You must keep pushing yourselves to write more and to grow as writers. You must take writing for FunDza seriously. FunDza is a great platform for writers and the readership is big. It’s an opportunity to grow as a writer. Keep on writing!”

FunDza hopes Themba keeps on writing too – and goes from strength to strength!