The South African National Editors’ Forum mourns the sad passing of veteran sports editor and author, Sello Rabothata. He was 68.
Rabothata was a renowned soccer writer who has over the decades written for several print publications, in the process establishing himself as an authoritative voice when it came to everything South African football.
Soccer leaders, and players of yesteryear, held Rabothata in high esteem for his frank, straightforward writing over the decades.
Rabothata was the author of Solomon “Stix” Morewa: The Rise and Fall. The book was published a few months back.
SANEF appreciates that over the years Rabothata worked tirelessly in nurturing the next generation of soccer writers, who to this day are established and continue to hold the fort.
Molefi Mika, author, and former sports editor at The Sowetan who worked with Rabothata for several years, said: “We’ll remember Sello, as one of the best both in general news and sports with loads of experience and a dedicated leader (news editor and later sports editor).
“The football fraternity should also thank him for having a hand in attracting fans to rally behind our national team at the time it was referred to as ‘The 4x4s’. He did this when he agreed with me that we should call the team Bafana Bafana, something that was also endorsed by S’busiso Mseleku. The rest is history to borrow this weather-beaten phrase.
“In case Sello, like all of us human beings he at some stage upset some people I ask that he should be forgiven as I believe by now, he has long pardoned those who had also hurt him. Condolences to the Rabothata family, friends, and former colleagues.”
A giant in journalism
Kgomotso Mokoena, sports editor at Sunday World, said: “Some of us who arrived in the industry in the early 2000s, walked right into the arms of Bra Sello who was already an icon and a doyen of sports writing. I mean, I grew up reading his articles and columns in the Sowetan when I was still in school. He was also a friend to my uncles in Wattville, Benoni, and every time I met him, I saw a giant in journalism. I simply wanted to be like him.
“And when I finally got a chance, he welcomed me with open arms and showed me the ropes. He was happy to work with us lightweights and spent a lot of his time imparting his knowledge. He was a robust, no-nonsense journalist who respected his craft. He was feared and loved by those meant to be answerable and accountable.
“This is a huge loss to the football fraternity, most especially the SA senior national team, as he was one of the “Three Musketeers” to have coined the phrase Bafana Bafana, together with the late S’busiso Mseleku and Molefi Mika at Sowetan newspaper in the early 1990s.”
Catalyst of hope
Mathews Mpete, former sports editor at Daily Sun: “Rabothata ushered some of us into the field of sports journalism, a catalyst of hope that I’m destined for greater things in the industry. I started working with him in 2000, and at the time, I was still a junior in sports reporting, coming from an entertainment section. When I joined The Sowetan as a freelancer, the then sports editor, Mika, was out of the office, and he was on the desk.
“My writing at the time wasn’t as sharp as it should have been, but he wasn’t as harsh as any other editor would have been seeing such an atrocious copy. He made me rewrite the story, of course, with guidance and direction. He was at times temperamental for a good reason and even guided us on how to conduct ourselves as a Sowetan journalist.
“From there onwards, I looked forward to working with him on Sundays, as he alternated the day with Mika. Often, he would make time to call me and advise me on the previous story. Fast forward to 2019, just before the Covid-19, I would still get his calls, introducing himself with a rich baritone voice: ‘Mateo, what’s this you’ve written?’
“Rabothata still behaved like my superior over a decade after I officially stopped working with him. He would touch base with me, despite being on retirement, giving me story leads while I was still at the Daily Sun. He was an avid fan of my work and even suggested other things that would make me bigger in the game. May his soul find peace, he’s served his dues, and we’re here today to bear testimony of his work.”