By Chris Totobela
The Makhanda sports fraternity is under a dark cloud after the passing of one of the greatest sports icons this town has ever produced. Bulelani “Stekelina” Ndwayana succumbed to a short illness and died on 30 March.
Ndwayana made his name in both boxing and football, starting his boxing career in the early 1980s and working his way up to the professional ranks by 1987. He joined the influx of boxers, including the late Mzimkhulu Maswana, who left Makhanda to join Port Alfred-based Chumani Boxing Promotions, then under the leadership of Ramie Xonxa, who was then also a member of the Eastern Cape Boxing Control Commission.
Together with the likes of the late Mthinteli Kula, Thembani Gqabothi, Sakhiwo Duruwe, Zamuxolo Maseti, and Mimizana Mxube, Ndwayana flew the Makhanda flag in the boxing ring. He fought as the Junior Lightweight. The most important fights of his career were against Gqeberha-based Koko Tshamlambo in Gqeberha over eight rounds where he lost on a split decision.
Next up was a bout against Gauteng-based Eugene Khanyile, who he defeated on points over eight rounds, setting him up for a long-awaited bout against the then-champion Mthobeli Mhlophe. He exchanged leather with East London-based Mhlophe in the then-Uitenhage Sports Centre in Kariega for the Cape title. Mhlophe was trained by the late legendary trainer Mzimasi Mnguni while Ndwayana was trained and managed by his promoter, Xonxa. Ndwayana lost this fight under the supervision of the Eastern Cape Boxing Control Commission chairman, the late Welcome Duru.
Ndwayana trained and managed dozens of Makhanda boxers over the years, the most well-known of whom was his son, Mziwoxolo, who won World Boxing Federation (WBF) international welterweight title in 2016. Ndwayana also trained the late Zikhona Skeyi, who fought overseas.
Xonxa, now an ANC ward councillor in Makhanda, expressed his devastation at the passing of Ndwayana. “He was a great athlete and played his role in boxing. He has now reached his Destiny and the most important thing now is for his son Mziwoxolo, to keep up his father’s legacy,” said Xonxa.
Xonxa said Ndwayana had dedicated his life to the Masibambane Boxing Club and urged the club to safeguard Ndwayana’s legacy too. He vowed to support Mziwoxolo with boxing advice.
Mfuzo Dyirha of the Mfuzo Boxing Camp sent his condolences to the Ndwayana family and Masibambane Boxing Club. “I think Ndwayana’s passing has left a huge void in the boxing fraternity locally, regionally, and provincially,” Dyirha said.
“I am still shocked and shattered by my father’s passing and will try and keep all his teachings with me. He was more than just a father to me and I will miss him dearly, but I have no choice but to be strong,” said Mziwoxolo “Bokoloshe” Ndwayana.
Ndwayana also made a name for himself in football as a Joza Callies Football Club player and an administrator for the then-Grahamstown Soccer Association (GRASA). Manager and coach of Joza Callies, Mzwandile “Luis” Ntlanjeni, sent his deepest condolences to the Ndwayana family.
Former Juventus defender and now Rising Stars chairman Elvis Bill praised Ndwayana for his role in local football. “I had the honour of playing against him and he was such a talented midfielder. He loved sports so much, and he was a very good person on and off the field. He played his role in developing local football, and we, as Rising Stars, would like to send our heartfelt condolences to his family,” Bill said.
Ndwayana’s memorial service will be held on Tuesday, 4 April, at Noluthando Hall at 3 pm. He will be laid to rest on Thursday, 6 April, at the Joza Indoor Sports Centre.