“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
The holidays keep coming thick and fast as we approach the midway mark of the year. The Johannesburg heat is refusing to give way to the winters chill as the year lingers on at a steady pace. We took time out to speak Simi Mdaka who is someone whose ability transcends and personifies excellence with consummate ease and grace. We were left in awe by someone so talented but yet so humble and down to earth as we came to the realisation that we were looking at the light that inspires stars to climb to the sky and light up the world.
Simi was Born on the 17th September in 1982 in the small town of eMthatha at St Mary’s Hospital and is the daughter of late Viwe Malusi and Vuyo Zitumane. She Grew up at eMthatha and eZwelitsha, eventually moved to East London in 1994 did Grade 6 at Crewe Primary School in Amalinda. That’s where she started playing netball with u/11s. in 1996 went to Clarendon Girls High School where her sporting career really picked up. Provincial athlete for long jump and short distances 200m & 400m, started playing for SA schools in 1998 for u/16. She got 3 month opportunity to study in the UK as part of Clarendons exchange programme with Wrekin College. In Matric, she played her first u/21 World Cup at the age of 18 and first roped into the SA Spar Protea team in 2005. She is the eldest of 4 kids- 2 sisters and a brother namely Zintle Malusi, Lungi Malusi and Asanda Zitumane! She is married with her Husband former SA Sevens rugby player Tobela Mdaka and has two girls Imitha and Nikilitha Mdaka.
We asked Mrs Mdaka to tell us about her current profession;
“In terms of a career from day to day I work for one of the leading financial institutions in Africa in the dealing room providing foreign exchange solutions to clients. A role which I have thoroughly enjoyed as it continues to challenge me. I think it’s so important to find and do something one really enjoys in life as there is not greater satisfaction than that!”
“I have been really blessed to be raised by a powerhouse of women with such strong personalities.” Simi
“I also commentate for supersport during the netball season, providing expert analysis on the game and the players. It was an automatic move for me post retirement. It’s such an exciting and thrilling job, and sometimes I step on people’s toes for being brutally honest and always having an opinion but it’s part of the job and I love it!”
Over and above that Simi is a marathon runner, and we asked her to shed light on her achievements in that space;
“I started running socially but soon realised that it was something I really enjoyed as it gave me an opportunity to have some “me-time”. I joined the “Manoni Running Club” and since then I’ve successfully completed 3 Comrade Marathons and a whole lot of other marathons I’ve lost count. I absolutely love running- it is my getaway and gives me time to think and reflect on myself and whatever it is that’s going on at the moment. I always tell people, I’ll continue to run for as long as my knees allow me to!”
We asked Simi to tell us about her being a Netball player for Gauteng Central provincial team and Spar South Africa Netball team? What her your biggest achievement in sport?
“My highest sporting achievement was being able to represent my country from 2005-2013 an opportunity I’m forever grateful for as netball opened so many doors for me. I also captained the first ever SA Fast 5 team- which was an amazing experience for me as not only was I playing for my country but I also had a huge responsibility of leading that team to 3rd place at the World Fast 5 Tournament in New Zealand. My greatest achievement though was when I was part of the 2013 team which beat England in a tri-nations series hosted in PE. My family and my in-laws were there to support me, we had home ground advantage- what else could I have asked for. My dreams of playing for the Proteas actually started in that very same hall- when I was still in school at Clarendon Girls High. We drove the one year to PE to watch the Proteas play Australia in 1997-1998. That’s when I knew in my heart that all I ever wanted to do was to represent my country in netball. It is also the same hall I decided to hang my netball shoes in 2013 and start making a different contribution to netball.”
We also asked her to tell us about her role as a brand ambassador. What brands she had represented? What process she goes through when deciding which brands to associate with, as herself being the Simi Noni Mdaka?
“I have been really fortunate to be associated with 2 global players who asked to me to represent their brands- Tsogo Sun previously and now SAB’s Brutal Fruit. To say I am honoured is an understatement – it is so surreal. I think they found characteristics and attributes in me which are aligned with their objectives- and all the time I was just being myself. Brutal Fruit was a natural fit for me as I see myself as a fun-loving person who lives life to the fullest, an individual who strives for excellence yet living a balanced life through my love for sport and a healthy lifestyle. So my role is to promote netball with the aim to grow the sport, it is to share my life journey with youngsters and many aspirant netballers so that they know anything is possible. I always look for a brand I resonate with, a brand which shares the same vision as me so that I’m never conflicted; and a brand I can speak proudly of without reservations. SAB’s Brutal Fruit was really a natural fit for me.”
We asked her how she juggles everything and where she finds the time between being a wife, a mother, head of a forex sales team, ambassador, marathon runner and presenter?
“No clue! I’ll tell you this though, I absolutely thrive on being able to wear all those different hats! I love my work; I’m in a fast paced environment, uncertain at times because of the nature of the business we are in. I’m always on my toes coz i never really know what’s going to hit me the next day. My family is “my everything”, my sanctuary, my reason for my existence- I have such an amazing husband, Tobela Mdaka, who has been my rock from the onset. He is a great source of strength, has a beautiful heart and is an amazing father to our kids. He has always supported me in all my endeavors – I think it helps that he, too, was a former Springbok 7s Rugby player as he gets the life of an athlete. Then my 2 beautiful daughters are the reason I get up and go every day. Their future depends on me (us) – that is the greatest responsibility I (we) have ever been entrusted with. The ambassador role speaks to my personality – I have a deep rooted passion for netball so promoting the sport was really the next thing for me to do post retirement in 2013. And if my purpose is to get as many young girls involved in sport equipping them with life long skills- then I’m certainly in the right place! I’ve always had a weakness for a nice time, for having fun, entertaining, and loads of laughter etc. I’ll even plan my training regime to make sure I can still go out and have fun with friends and family. I feed off people’s energy so this has always been an important part of my life. “Umntu ngumntu ngabantu” I’ve really learnt that over the years; that no one can live in isolation.”
On the role her your upbringing played in moulding her as a complete all-rounder and well-groomed role model;
“Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this one I was raised by 2 phenomenal women in the true sense of the word- My Gran and My Mom. My Grandmother, Christina Peliwe Vusani, a former principal of Engangelizwe Senior Secondary School in Umthatha played such a critical role in the early stages of my life and continues to do so today. She created an environment where we could be ourselves, she gave room to question, to challenge. She instilled a lot of disciplines which I still live by and most importantly she never gave up on any of us and always believed we would achieve great things in life. Then my mother, Vuyo Zitumane, affectionately known as “Mrs Fix it” in the Eastern Cape is a real example of someone who does it all. And yep, she takes it upon herself to fix everything around her sometimes even things which don’t need to be fixed! She is such a hard-worker, a visionary, a dreamer, a lover of life; she is a care giver wants to take care of everyone else but herself. I see a lot of me in her- which is scary! All in all, I have been really blessed to be raised by a powerhouse of women with such strong personalities. They have moulded me into the all-rounded person I am today.”
Being someone who believes that women can achieve anything they put their minds to, whether she is an activist or whether she goes about her daily activities conscious of the inspiration that she is?
“I’m not really an activist but I do advocate that women need to start owning who they are and start believing that they can really do anything they want to. I honestly believe in this phenomenon. Gone are the days when we are restricted in terms of what we can and can’t do. I do think that society has contributed to that stereotype but it is in our own interest to break away from that and to break down any impediments which stand in our way as women. I just go on about my daily activities doing what I do un-aware of the impact I have on others, it is only when people relay their stories to me that I realise how my actions inspire others.”
She left us a message for the plenty of black children and aspiring sports women and men out there. The one advice and or message she would like to send to them.
“I want to encourage every child, every adult black or white who ever dreamed about a possibility in their life, to really pursue and go for what they want. Let no one tell you what you can or cannot do, let no circumstance become an impediment to your success. My gran always says “it is your attitude, not your aptitude which determines you altitude” and I honestly live by that line. I also grew up in challenging circumstances, but I had the utmost belief in myself and just continued to work on refining the rough edges. I believe that our success lies heavily on how we see ourselves, and also on how we are able to bounce back from failures- we are all bound to fail at some point in our lives but we cannot let those failures define us, instead they should build us to be better than who we were yesterday.”
On what her future hold for her?
“The future holds endless possibilities for me, one I’m an ambitious young lady who is always looking for opportunities to learn, to grow, to tap into new ventures, so career-wise I really see myself as an important role player in the financial industry which is the industry I’m currently in. In sports, I will continue to promote women sport in various roles and will hopefully play a critical role in growing netball in this country and taking it to new heights. I would love to see netball become a professional sport in the near future and this is something I would personally want to champion as it can change of course of many netballers’ lives. Not so long ago I, too, was faced with the decision of continuing to play for my country or focusing on my career- which is probably the hardest decision to make in any athletes’ career. So, if future netballers could make a full-time career out of netball, it would be ground breaking stuff and I would like to be part of that journey where we bring Corporate South Africa to partner with women sport in achieving that.”
On a lighter note and in closing we sure you are aware of the rivalry between Selborne, Dale and Queens College? Which school in your opinion was the best between those schools having attended Clarendon Girls yourself?
“Hahahahaaaa…. My husband won’t be pleased with my response (old Dalean) and neither will my Boss (old Queenean) but Selborne College is undoubtedly the best of the 3 schools- despite their recent defeat against both Dale and Queens in their rugby matches in the past 2 weeks. I’m a staunch supporter of Selborne College and truly believe in the culture and values the school instils on their students!”
Once again we would like to express our most sincere gratitude to Simi Mdaka for giving us the opportunity to speak to her. We are sure just as we are that you are left inspired at what one person can achieve at a very young age. As a daughter of the soil she truly is a gem and we hope her light inspires you to rise and shine yours for others as well, just like she has for us.
By Phila Bitterhout
Director and Editor at Grit Sports Media (PTY) Ltd