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The mayor of a city is its first citizen. The well-being of the city rests on his shoulders. In Executive Mayor Jolidee Matongo, the city of Johannesburg had a civic-minded son, born and raised, who lived among his people.

Five weeks ago, I met the mayor with Mr. Ruby Mathang of the city of Johannesburg to discuss the vaccination of Johannesburg residents against Covid-19.

Our meeting, scheduled for one hour, lasted three hours. One thing came out when we discussed the many challenges facing the city. At every turn, the mayor’s position has been reasoned from the point of view of the citizens of the city. He recognized and supported the role that different stakeholders must play in making the city of Johannesburg whole. He spoke of the message fatigue he believed the citizens of South Africa to have now because of conspiracy theories.

“People are tired,” he said. He believed that fraternities like football, which have mass appeal that transcends race, gender, age, religion and political affiliation, will help spread an effective message of support promoting the need to immunize.

I happen to know that the mayor did not engage in politics or engage in political correctness. He was both active in the communities and a strong supporter of the football club. He knew firsthand the communities and the impact of football. He was an active supporter of the Orlando Pirates Football Club.

He will preface his strong comments on the club’s performance by stating that he speaks in his capacity as a supporter. And what a supporter he was. He did most of his community work in the Orlando Pirates insignia. On match days, he donned his Orlando Pirates jersey. He was not a passive, silent spectator of the match. He was an active and vocal participant. The Mayoral Suite at Orlando Stadium was never boring when the Orlando Pirates were playing. He clapped, he laughed and he sang. It was only on Friday September 17th that he phoned my son Mpumi to thank him for the jersey and to inquire about his tracksuit. Mpumi told her that her bag was ready to be picked up at the office. He told Mpumi that he would personally come and pick it up.

The mayor was quite a singer. He believed in worship by song. He said, “Song brings worshipers closer to God. It uplifts activists by strengthening their determination and commitment to their cause. It helps the players on the playing field to feel the mood of their supporters ”. The Orlando Pirate Choir visited the mayor’s home on Tuesday to comfort his family and friends. It was his choir. The Dube Methodist Church in Soweto was their meeting place. When they released their CD in 2017. He bought a hundred copies. He enthusiastically encouraged those to whom he had given the CD to listen and sing. He promised that singing the CD would bring them a closeness to God that they have never felt.

Goodbye My friend. Johannesburg will not be the same without your passionate support. He will miss your song, your presence, your care. You were right to say: “The majority do not seek excesses, they seek services and hope for their families, especially for their children”. You didn’t need official reports to know what was going on on the ground. You were there with the people.

Goodbye buccaneer. You have left us with beautiful memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

That your soul rest in peace.

It’s hard to think of the city of Johannesburg without Jolidee Matongo.

Dr Irvin Khoza

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About George H. McWhorter

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