Azola still capturing people’s hearts

Azola Phaphu, was 3 when this picture was taken in 2018, where he mimics riot police who were stationed in Gugulethu. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

A photojournalist who took a picture of a young boy which became hugely popular on social media recently returned to help the boy’s family after the photographer heard that the boy’s mom had died.

It was during a violent service delivery protest in Gugulethu in 2018 that Ayanda Ndamande photographed the then 3-year-old Azola Papu, who was mimicking police officers, wearing a helmet and brandishing a toy gun.

After he heard that Azola’s mom had died of meningitis on July 5, Mr Ndamande visited the family again three weeks ago, with food parcels and the commitment to help the family get a birth certificate for Azola, now 5.

Recalling the day the photo was taken, Azola’s aunt, Lulama Papu said when Azola saw the police officer, he ran to the house to get his helmet and toy gun.

“I remember at that time the creche had new toys that came in – the toy gun and helmet that he is wearing in the picture came from those toys.

“He came running to the house and wore the helmet and held the gun and went running to the street and stood with the police officers. Then he was spotted by the journalist who took the trending picture of him.

Ms Papu said the passing of her sister, who is Azola’s mother, understandably had a negative impact on the boy.

“Azola needs counselling. His mother’s passing has affected him really badly. He doesn’t take it really well when he hears people talking about his mother. He just cries and gets angry.”

She added that she was grateful to everyone who had made donations and offered help to Azola, particularly Mr Ndamande who had put a call out on social media for assistance, and Uzalo actress Nomphilo Maphumulo who was among those who had responded to the call.

“People have been supporting us and I’m so grateful. The actress from Uzalo and the Lungile Mshotwana Foundation came to our house on Sunday with groceries and toys for Azola,” she said.

Ms Papu said they struggled to make ends meet, and she was grateful to Mr Ndamande who was helping them apply for Azola’s birth certificate.

She was also relieved that Azola would also be able to start his schooling.

The Lungile Mshotwana Foundation’s chairperson, Dr Gregory Davids, said they were exploring different education systems that will be best for Azola.

“As the foundation, we are passionate about education. When we heard about Azola’s situation, we took it upon ourselves to explore different possibilities for Azola’s future, looking at different education systems. Our foundation supports learners with financial needs,” said Dr Davids.