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Racing Into History

A bright future lies ahead of a determined young man, who became the first black jockey to win one of the world’s most famous races, thanks to Nelson Mandela.



S’Manga Khumalo must have been walking on air, after he dismounted to the cheers of the crowd at the Durban July, as the first black jockey to win South Africa’s premier horse racing event.

That win, on the five-year-old bay gelding, Heavy Metal, meant that 28-year-old Khumalo had won three of the country’s major racing events in eight months. Heavy Metal gave owner Chris van Niekerk and trainer Sean Tarry back-to-back July wins, following Pomodoro’s victory in 2012.

It was a close finish. Heavy Metal—priced at 16-1—surged ahead with 350 meters to go; Run For It and Do You Remember were still in contention. It took power and perfect timing for Khumalo to steer Heavy Metal to win by a head.

“Those good decisions stem from great confidence. Ultimately it is the confidence and the sound decision-making that separate the champion men from the boys… In racing, it is a vital factor: the horse and rider get on very well,” says Tarry.

Khumalo said that Tarry never put pressure on him before the race and he was relaxed going into the starting pens.

“That is the way I like to be at all times,” he says.

Khumalo got the nickname ‘Bling’ after he dyed his hair blond in 2011.

“The only similarity between S’Manga and Piere Strydom is that they both have blond hair,” quipped van Niekerk after the historic win.

Seriously, van Niekerk thinks Khumalo could emulate the legendary three-time Durban July winner Strydom, who won his third title on Pomodoro. Tarry agrees, he says Khumalo was in a different class and had ridden a brilliant race.

“During the past three months, he won three major races. He always had talent. S’Manga needed to mature mentally, which he has done. His ability to win more Durban Julys depends on whether he is lucky enough to get the right horses. He needs to keep his standards high and get good rides… S’Manga must stay mentally alert and sharp, and retain the ability to make good decisions,” he says.

Van Niekerk agrees: “There is a good connection between S’Manga and Heavy Metal.”

That chemistry was mentioned by Laura Hillenbrand in her best-selling book Seabiscuit: An American Legend: “When a horse and a jockey flew over the track together, there were moments in which the man’s mind wedded itself to the animal’s body to form something greater than the sum of both parts. It’s easy to talk to a horse if you understand his language. Horses stay the same from the day they are born until the day they die. They are only changed by the way people treat them.”

Khumalo says building a relationship with the horse is vital.

“You must have a calming influence on the horse and know how to get the best out of him. You also have to know how he runs and what he prefers to do,” he says.

It seems to be working. When he piloted Wagner to the first of his so-called big three wins at Turffontein, in Johannesburg, Khumalo led from the start.

“I knew instinctively that Wagner didn’t like to have a horse in front of him. He loves to be a frontrunner, and that’s why I took the lead early on,” he says.

Fellow jockey Strydom has applauded Khumalo’s athleticism and power, saying it requires strength for a rider of 52 kilograms to guide a horse to victory. He also said the low riding style of Khumalo has contributed to his success.

On a day when Greyville racecourse paid tribute to Nelson Mandela during the Durban July, Khumalo acknowledged the great man.

“I don’t know where I would have been if it was not for Madiba, but I definitely would not have been here,” he says.

There is a chance that Khumalo may not have been there were it not for a chance meeting with sixty-four-year old Paul Sibisi, a racing fanatic who spent two years scouting the schools of Durban, on behalf of the South African Jockey Academy, looking for youngsters with a size two shoe.

Sibisi spotted the then 14-year-old Khumalo at Mzuvele High School in KwaMashu.

“He was the most disciplined young man I selected,” says Sibisi.

Selection for a jockey is a rigorous process and a small frame is essential. Would-be jockeys are measured from the foot to the knee to gauge how big they are likely to grow—even the size of their parents is taken into account. Many are called, few are chosen and the stakes are high—a good jockey can earn up to $6,000 a month.

“I vividly remembered the interview to join the academy in January 2000. I don’t think I would have achieved anything without the South African Jockey Academy riding masters, like Vincent Curtis,” says Khumalo.

“In terms of mentors, I always looked up to riders like Piere Strydom and Anthony Delpech, and the riding master Robert Moore.”

Khumalo has been among the top twenty riders since 2005, rode 52 winners in 2011, before a knee injury curtailed his progress.

He had a stint in Australia and rode at the Mudgee Cup before homesickness led to a return and the build-up to the purple patch of 2013. In April, Heavy Metal sprung a surprise in the R2-million Premier’s Champions Challenge.

The 40-1 chance put in a spurt 300 meters out. He charged past Shogunnar and defied Knock On Wood to claim the win.

“My improvement in the past few months stemmed from improving my judgment of pace. I have learned to make my move at the precise moment, perhaps at 200 to 300 meters. Earlier, I led the charge and the eventual champion would just sit and wait for the opportune moment, lobbying at the back. That’s no longer the case,” says Khumalo.

Good form continued with an emphatic win in a Pinnacle Stakes run over a mile at Turffontein. Again, timing was everything and in the run to the line he slipped, through a slender gap, past Gavin Lerena and charged clear to win by 1.25 lengths.

Yet, Khumalo was seen as a nearly man until his win at the Champions Challenge in the run-up to the Durban July.

On the day of the big win in Durban, Sibisi says many people were skeptical about a black African winning the July, but others bet their month’s wages on Khumalo. He watched it in a packed and raucous betting shop in West Street, Durban.

“People were shouting. It was so loud you could not hear the TV. When he won, everyone was jumping around and punching the air. One woman had put a thousand rand on a week before, at 16-1. You can imagine the joy,” says Sibisi.

The only man in the betting shop that day who did not have money on Khumalo—you guessed it—was Sibisi.

“Even now, when I walk around Umlazi people call across the street saying: ‘Your boy made me a lot of money,’” laughs Sibisi.

The first black African to win the Durban July is likely to make a lot of money for punters for years to come.

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Get Set Mo!



Morongoa Mahope feeds her love for extreme biking with petrol and adrenaline. The funds for her pet passion come from her nine-to-five accounting job.

About 10kms north of the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa is another racetrack, where superbikes and sports cars are noisily revving up their engines, getting ready for a practice run on a cold Wednesday afternoon in Johannesburg.

At first glance at the Zwartkops racetrack is a melange of male drivers and mechanics.

But also revving up a superbike, the one numbered 83, is Morongoa Mahope from Mahwelereng in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

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She is about to clock 270kmph on her black bike, tagged #Mo83 in pink.

When she is not burning rubber on the racetrack, Mahope is an accountant working for an advertising agency in the city.

“When I started [superbiking], it was mainly only for leisure because I love the sound bikes and cars make. I’m a petrol head and just wanted it to commute to work,” she says.

Morongoa Mahope

Her journey started in 2013 when she convinced her husband and family about buying a superbike. Her family was initially apprehensive and viewed superbike racing as dangerous.

Her husband finally relented and Mahope went for a day’s training to see if she really would be interested in the bike before investing in it. The 36-year-old sports fanatic succumbed, and indeed pursued her wish.

“I still have my first bike; it’s a green and black Kawasaki Ninja 250cc. I was just using it to [go to] work until I met a biking club, the Eagle Bikers Club Limpopo,” she recalls.

Mahope was riding with the club, doing breakfast runs between Johannesburg and Limpopo; but, in 2015, they took a trip to Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

READ MORE: Making Up For Millions

Navigating the mountainous, curvy roads, Mahope was overtaking men with her small 250cc bike at the bends.

She was then goaded by her fellow riders to try the racing circuit.

“I went to the track and met a superbike racer; Themba Khumalo, and I started following his journey. I spent more time on the track, practising so I could start racing in 2016. The love for the sport was getting deeper and deeper,” says Mahope.

Khumalo, a professional superbike rider who has raced in the European Championships, says he met Mahope at Zwartkops and it was her first time at the track, and she was quite fast at the corners.

He went up to her to introduce himself because it was rare to see a black woman on a racetrack.

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“I then took her through the fundamentals of racing and the basics; the type of bike she would need and the equipment. I could see how committed she was and how quick she was learning, and her lack of fear. She was going farther than where she was,” says Khumalo.  

However, her male counterparts were not impressed with her pace on the track; they remarked negatively about her. But Mahope didn’t let the minimizing comments derail her mission.

Unfortunately, Mahope was involved in an accident during training on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and fractured her clavicle before her first race. That took her off the bike for six months.

She joked about the incident with friends, but they persisted and told her it’s an unsafe sport. That encouraged her even more; she wore her helmet and gloves, clocking higher speeds than ever before on her superbike.

Indeed, it was a learning curve. A few months later, she was invited to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to race.

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Her first official race was the same year as the injury; it was a club race in Delmas, Mpumalanga, at the Red Star Raceway. She had never been on the grid nor practised how to stud, but for her, it was more about the experience despite the shivers and nerves.

“I finished the race and I was second last. It’s part of how you start but you will improve to be better. And now, I have lost count of the races I have competed in,” she says.

Mahope is racing in the short circuit series for women who use the 250cc, being the only black woman to participate. She also participated in the Extreme Festival tour series, a regional race in which she used her Kawasaki Ninja ZX600cc, racing men with bigger and louder bikes.

“I am the first black woman to be in the grand prix and the challenges that I faced were having to teach myself a lot of things. I had to learn how to ride on the track, the speed, the decelerating, all was new to me. I wasn’t helped.”

Mahope started at a late stage with the sport, and had to put in more time and effort in a short period to get to where she is currently.

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Today, she assists women who are starting with the sport.  

Sadly, in South Africa, there is no national league for women to race and represent the country despite finishing in the top three in the 2019 races.

With all her achievements thus far, Mahope’s salary sustains her motorsport passion.

“Racing is very expensive; the more you practise, the more you get better and the more you spend money. On practice day, I spend about R3,000 ($206) and would practise twice a week at different tracks. In total, I would spend R18,000 ($1,235) a month for the track excluding the travel costs to the track and race day,” she explains.These costs cover tyres, fuel and entrance to the tracks.

A sum of about R40,000 ($2,744) can get you geared up for the bike and track.

It just shows this daredevil accountant can balance both the books and the bike.

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Playing Two Shots Ahead



The 16-year-old dreams of lifting the French Open title in the future, but also hopes to inspire a generation of black players to take up tennis.

Khololwam Montsi, 16, a rising star of South African tennis, recently broke into the list of top 20 junior tennis players in the world after an excellent year that has seen him take part in tournaments in Australia, Paraguay, Brazil, Italy, Belgium and Japan, as well as take the South African circuit by storm.

The young prodigy trains at the Anthony Harris Tennis Academy in Cape Town, the same facility that developed Lloyd Harris into a top 100 player on the men’s senior ATP circuit.

Montsi was not actually all that interested in tennis until his older brother, Sipho, took up the game.

“I was focussed on karate and squash, those were my two main sports,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“But when I saw my brother playing tennis, I also wanted to join in. You know what it is like when you have an older brother, you want to follow him and impress him.

“At that time, I was representing South Africa in karate, but I decided to drop the sport for tennis because I started to enjoy it more, was getting better and doing well in tournaments. It motivated me a lot.

“I come from a very sporty background, my father, Xolani, played rugby and soccer; my mother, Phumla, was a sprinter. When I was younger, I did everything – rugby, soccer, cricket, swimming, athletics, the lot. I just love to compete.”

Montsi has developed quickly and, despite his relatively short frame, excelled with racquet in hand to emerge as arguably South Africa’s leading young talent.

“For me, since I am usually always playing against guys bigger than me, my game is not all about power,” he says. “My strength comes from my mind, I feel like I’m smarter than everybody else on court. I can pull off any shot.

“I read the game really well for someone of this age. I play two shots ahead of my opponents and can hit the ball into areas where I know where they will return it to me. That gives me an advantage to be ready. It is the big strength in my game.

“I would love to win the French Open, I’m a big fan of clay courts, you get more time to play. It is better for me at my height.”

And as for his personal role model?

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“I would take a few players and combine that. I love Rafa Nadal, he never gives up. I love [Novak] Djokovic, the way he moves across court and is super flexible. Then someone like [Gael] Monfils for the way he can pull off amazing shots.”

South Africa has lacked a black player on the singles circuit and Montsi is hopeful he will break the mould, saying he takes great satisfaction from being a pioneer.

“I want to lift up tennis as a black boy. We do not see tennis as a big sport in South Africa, barely any black kids play. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, but I do feel a responsibility to help black tennis players get opportunities.

“I play for myself, my family, my coaches and for black people. I would like to help grow the game in South Africa for them. It would be cool if I could help get more people to start playing tennis.”

The obvious question is how he juggles traveling the world and his school work, but Montsi has found a solution.

“I do online home-schooling, which means I can do all my work at tournaments, anywhere in the world as long as I have my laptop. It is tough to balance the two, it takes a lot of discipline.

“I do sometimes think, ‘I’m tired today, I won’t do it’ and I was behind for quite a while, but with the home-schooling system, it is perfect, I have caught up quickly.”

Montsi is preparing for the Australian Junior Open in January, the start of a busy year that will hopefully also see him take part in the senior ATP Tour at some stage.

“To be the first black African to win a Junior Grand Slam would be amazing for me,” he says, adding his future success may depend on funding.

“To become a successful tennis player, you need financial support to get to tournaments. I am being helped a lot, but things can change quickly. I do see myself playing on the pro-circuit, that is my dream. I feel like I can keep my tennis up, but if the finances aren’t there.”

By Nick Said

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30 under 30

Applications Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020



FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.

JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.

The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.

Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.

What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous. 

Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”

If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.


Business and Technology categories

  1. Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
  3. Business/businesses should be two years or older
  4. Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
  5. Must be profit generating
  6. Must employ people in Africa
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Sports category

  1. Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be representing an African team
  3. Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
  4. Should be making significant earnings
  5. Should have some endorsement deals
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Creatives category

  1. Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be from or based in Africa
  3. Should be making significant earnings
  4. Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
  5. Must have social influence
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Your entry should include:

  • Country
  • Full Names
  • Company name/Team you are applying with
  • A short motivation on why you should be on the list
  • A short profile on self and company
  • Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
  • All social media handles
  • Contact information
  • High-res images of yourself

Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]

Nominations close on 3 February 2020.

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