Veteran journalist Benson Ntlemo pays tribute to his former colleague Don Mattera

Veteran journalist Benson Ntlemo pays tribute to his former colleague Don Mattera

I have just learnt through a post by Mojalefa Mashego that the legendary poet cum author Bra Don Mattera is no more.
He played a huge role in my life.
When I started writing at The Voice newspaper, a weekly owned by the South African Council of Churches.

I was staying at George Goch Hostel in a room rented by my eldest brother. Then while there, I hooked up with Dennis Beckett who was publishing the new magazine Frontline from his Dunkeld House Building office in Braamfontein.

The late iconic writer Don Mattera

It so happened that I wrote a story on hostel life in Johannesburg titled The Nomads of Our Times. One of the Frontline magazine contributors was the late Agree Klaaste, the deputy editor on the Sowetan. I had not known Klaaste personally, but had read so much about him. Then Frontline editor and publisher Dennis Beckett said Klaaste wanted to see me. I then went to the Sowetan to see Klaaste.

He was interested in my writing and from then, he sort of mentored me. As one of the journalist friends Peter Setuke told me many journalists believed I had not written the piece, and it was written by Klaaste. Klaaste had not met me before I wrote the article and got to know me because of it. Klaaste introduced me to his friends such as Don Mattera, Mike Phalatse, Sekolla Sello.
They wanted me to be with them over weekend. Mattera used to talk to me in Xitsonga. A very generous person, he used to give me money. Then I stopped that when I used to tell me (sic) I had money, even if I did not have any.

Klaaste begged his friends to look for accomodation for me in Soweto as it was unsound for me to live in the West Rand Adminstration Board Hostels while I was exposing their bad living conditions in my writing. Both Mattera and Sello took it upon themselves to find me a place, but it was Sello who won when he found me a place at the house of journalist Dan Langa who was working in Polokwane for the South African Press Association.

When I first knew him, he was a banned person. But he was doing a sub job at a Johannesburg daily. In recent years the pics of Bra Don were not of the one I knew. Maybe age had to do with it .

May his soul rest in peace.

By Benson Ntlemo

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