Family and friends remember Sir Soj

Mzoli Irvine Sojola

One of Gugulethu’s finest sons, well-loved teacher and former Fezeka High principal, Mzoli Irvine Sojola, will be buried this Saturday at Maitland Cemetery.

Sir Soj, as he was affectionately known, died on Sunday October 20 after a short illness.

Soj died a day after South Africa commemorated “Black Wednesday”, a historic day in 1977 (October 19), when the apartheid government banned 17 Black Consciousness organisations and three newspapers.

An ardent supporter of the Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko who was killed by police a month earlier during the same year, he would always remind people everywhere on September 12 and around October 19 that “Steve Biko died naked at the back of a police van”.

This indignity inflicted on one of South Africa’s greatest leaders left an indelible mark on the mind of Soj who dedicated his life to fighting for justice and decent education.

Soj was loving, caring and committed to the education of his people.

Thus, he was a founding member of the Democratic Teacher’s Union (DETU), the forerunner of SADTU in the Western Cape under the its inaugural president, the former Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana.

“I am saddened to hear about his passing,” said Professor Monde Mbekwa, his long time friend, colleague and comrade.

“He was a student colleague with me at Fezeka High School between 1970 and 1971.

“We left Fezeka together for Osborne High School. After matric we trained together as teachers at Lovedale Teachers’ College in Alice between 1974 and 1975.

“He was a classmate and a dorm-mate at Lovedale.

“He was part of the progressive teachers who formed DETU in the early 80s.

“I considered him a friend. I Iast saw him in 2016. I was chatting about him with my wife only on Friday.

“Many people may not know this but Soj was extremely funny. Wherever he was, there was laughter at his jokes. But life was not always kind to him. May he forever rest in peace!”

Mr Sojola was born at St Monica’s Hospital in Cape Town on December 7 1953.

He completed his primary education at Vuyani, and then went to Fezeka High. He completed his matric at Osborne High in Mount Fletcher.

He enrolled at Lovedale Teacher’s College. He decided to do teaching, although this was not his wish, because of circumstances after his father died young.

Mr Sojola was 16 at the time of his father’s death.

His intention was to find work and assist his mother who was a domestic worker at the time.

Mr Sojola was an excellent cricket player and a brilliant rugby player.

While teaching was not his first love, it eventually grew on him and he developed great passion for it.

Thus, with his calm demeanour and caring attitude, he virtually won the hearts of all his students, moulding them into great leaders, professionals, business people and sports-persons.

He furthered his studies by obtaining his first degree at Unisa, he did further studies at UCT as well.

He was a hard worker who would roll up his sleeves for any kind of task that had to be done.

During school holidays he would join his father at his employer for part-time work.

However, this would play second fiddle when there was cricket at Newlands.

He was agreat son, a father, a brother and uncle – an immense pillar of his family who was involved in efforts to rebuild his father’s home in the Eastern Cape.

Although very stubborn at times, he loved his family and always assumed leadership in extended family matters, rituals and gatherings.

He is survived by his beloved wife “Mela” , five children, six grandchildren and four siblings.

The funeral service will be on Saturday November 2 at NY 50 Gugulethu civic hall, from 9am.