Don Mattera’s family calls him as a “hero” as tributes pour in for the renowned poet

The Mattera family has described Don Mattera as a hero who always stood up for those who did not have a voice. Gaynolina Mattera was speaking outside the family home in Protea North, Soweto.

“He took gang members and turned them into sportsmen. Children and women who are abused were a soft spot for Don. He believed that the youth could change, against drugs and addiction. What he always said is that we must give them compassion. Build them up to be better people in society. I will always remember my brother as a hero.”

Mattera was laid to rest at the Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg o Monday in accordance with Islamic rites.

Tributes have been pouring in for the poet.

‘Words as a weapon’

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the late Don Mattera used his words as a weapon to fight injustices. Mthethwa says Mattera also dedicated his literature teachings to the youth.

“He used to say that his words are a weapon, they hurt. If you look at his work at large, it talks to the youth, talks to the children. He was very dedicated in wanting to see children better.”

‘A real giant’

Congress of the People Spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, says the country has lost a real giant in Don Mattera. He says this freedom fighter inspired many young people to use their talents in expressing their unhappiness with the Apartheid Regime in South Africa.

“A liberation giant, a pillar of strength Bra Don Mattera is no more. He conscientised us as young stars, through his poems. He taught us self-reliance.”

African National Congress (ANC) Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile says he will always remember the engagements he had with Mattera.

Mashatile says he had an opportunity to work with Mattera during his years as the Minister of Arts and Culture.

“We received information that Don Mattera has passed, I had an opportunity to work with him, when I was still Minister of Arts and Culture. We really want to say to the family our sincere condolences.”

In his early years. he became involved in Westbury’s gang culture, as a leader of the Vultures. But with some positive influence, he shifted his focus to politics and the fight against the destruction of Sophiatown.

As his political thinking developed, he joined the ANC Youth League. Mattera was banned in 1973 and spent over 8 years under house arrest. He used poetry and other writing to express what was happening at the time.

National Poet Laureate of South Africa Professor Mongane Wally Serote worked closely with Don Mattera over the years. He says Mattera dedicated his time in many communities mentoring young people in the field of art.

“Don Mattera was a very strong freedom fighter and anti-apartheid activist, a community activist but also from that he rose to become a national figure in the struggle against apartheid, against colonialism but also Don Mattera was an educationist. Besides being a journalist, he also worked tirelessly in communities to train young people in the arts and poetry. He recently formed a foundation through which he was trying to reach out to the nation, to the continent as a pan-Africanist.”


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