Mandela the boxer inspires new South African generation

Updated 05 July 2013
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Mandela the boxer inspires new South African generation

In a sweaty township gym where Nelson Mandela once trained as a young boxer, athletes are still pumping iron today, inspired by the peace icon’s example as he fights for his life in hospital. Things haven’t changed much since the early 1950s, when a youthful Mandela worked out on week nights at the Donaldson Orlando Community Center, or the “D.O.” as it’s still affectionately known.
Spartan and slightly run down, the walls ooze with the intermingled history of sport, community life and the decades-long fight against apartheid oppression.
It was here that Mandela came to lose himself in sport to take his mind off liberation politics.
Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s largest township just south of Johannesburg, the community center was also where famous African songbirds like Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie first performed.
The 1976 riots against the imposition of the Afrikaans language in black schools were planned from the D.O. as Mandela and other leaders languished in apartheid jails. “Here, look, these are the very same weights Madiba used for training,” proud gym instructor Sinki Langa, 49, told a visiting AFP reporter, using Mandela’s clan name.
“They have lasted all these years,” he said as he added another set to a bar his fellow trainee Simon Mzizi, 30, was using to furiously bench-press, sweat dripping down his face.
Nearby, other fitness enthusiasts worked out to the tune of soothing music — which unusually for a gym included opera.
The D.O. — or Soweto YMCA as it is called today — opened its doors in 1948, the same year the apartheid white nationalist government came to power.
Built with funds donated by Col. James Donaldson, a self-made entrepreneur and staunch supporter of the now governing African National Congress (ANC), the D.O. center includes a hall, and several sparsely furnished smaller rooms like the one where Mandela sparred as a young man.
Today the gym is housed in an adjacent hall, which was the original building on the grounds erected in 1932.
Mandela joined the D.O. in around 1950, often taking his oldest 10-year-old son Thembi with him.
In a letter to his daughter Zinzi, while on Robben Island where he spent 18 of his 27 years in jail, Mandela recalled his days at the gym.
“The walls... of the DOCC are drenched with the sweet memories that will delight me for years,” he wrote in the letter, published in his 2010 book “Conversations with Myself.”
“When we trained in the early 50s the club included amateur and professional boxers as well as wrestlers,” Mandela wrote to his daughter, who never received the letter because it was snatched by his goalers.
Training at the D.O. was tough and included sparring, weight-lifting, road-running and push-ups.
“We used to train for four days, from Monday to Thursday and then break off,” Mandela told journalist Richard Stengel in the early 1990s, while writing his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”
When he was handed a life sentence in 1964, Mandela kept up the harsh regime of his training to stay fit and healthy.
“I was very fit, and in prison, I felt very fit indeed. So I used to train in prison... just as I did outside,” Mandela said in a transcript of his conversation with Stengel, given to AFP by the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory.
Mandela was eventually released from jail in 1990 and in 1994, he was elected South Africa’s first black president.


DJ Avicii ‘could not go on any longer’: family

Updated 7 min 18 sec ago
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DJ Avicii ‘could not go on any longer’: family

  • Avicii was found dead on April 20 in Muscat, the capital of the Gulf sultanate Oman, where he had been on holiday with friends
  • The musician, whose real name was Tim Bergling, announced his retirement in 2016 saying that he wanted to leave the high-flying electronic music lifestyle.

STOCKHOLM: Swedish superstar Avicii, one of the world’s most successful DJs who died a week ago aged 28, “wanted peace” and “could not go on any longer,” his family said in an open letter on Thursday.
The musician, whose real name was Tim Bergling, was found dead on April 20 in Muscat, the capital of the Gulf sultanate Oman, where he had been on holiday with friends.
“He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness,” his family wrote in the letter, seen by AFP.
“He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace,” they added.
A spokeswoman for the artist declined to confirm whether he had committed suicide.
A police source in Oman said his death was not considered to be suspicious, adding that the circumstances would remain confidential at the request of the family.
He had made no secret of his health problems, including pancreatitis, triggered in part by excessive drinking linked to his party lifestyle.
“Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight,” his family said.
In 2016, Avicii stunned fans by announcing his retirement when he was just 26, saying that he wanted to leave the high-flying electronic music lifestyle.
“When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most -– music,” his family said.
His biggest hits included “Wake Me Up,” which went to number one across Europe in 2013 and featured the soul singer Aloe Blacc.
Avicii — who for years was one of the world’s most lucrative electronic musicians — in 2016 made number 12 on the list of top-paid DJs of Forbes magazine, which said he earned $14.5 million in the previous year.
“Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions,” his family said.
Avicii was among the first DJs to break through into the mainstream as electronic dance music grew over the past decade from nightclubs to Top 40 radio.
“An over-achieving perfectionist who traveled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress,” his family said.