Award Winner 2017
OUR UNSUNG SPORTS HEROES AND HEROINES
Francis Cass Sehloho
Francis Cass Sehloho was born on the 7 July 1948 and grew up in Mamelodi at his grandmother’s home. He was given the nickname of Cass by his Mamelodi High School mates, because of his boxing prowess which was likened to that of Cassius Clay, one of the best ever heavyweight boxers who later became famously known as Muhammad Ali. Francis later made a huge impact in sports in Atteridgeville where he came to live with his parents and six other siblings in 1969 after the passing of his grandmother.
Francis became a well-rounded versatile and passionate sportsman at an early age of 15 at high school where he actively and enthusiastically participated in boxing, softball, soccer and athletics. Although boxing was his first love, he later became an internationally acclaimed Black Belt Karateka. Today, in his retirement, he devotes his life at Dojos he runs in his home and in the community where he imparts karate skills to both young and old.
In 1963 he started boxing at Mamelodi High School and became captain of the school team. He won a number of Provincial titles in that year. Dr Peter Makhambeni who was also a student there, was co-manager and trainer of the school boxing team.
In 1968 he was the Provincial Lightweight Boxing Champion representing Afro-Sparta Boxing Club. He was also the South African Champion runner-up at the age of 20. Francis started getting involved in judo as well and joined Toromiyake Judo Club which was run by Curtis Mahlangu.
In 1969 after relocating to Atteridgeville, he joined Jumbo Boxing Club which was run by the legendary Jumbo Matolong. As a Judoka, he also joined Parker Lephera’s Judo Club at the then Super Stadium. In the same year he started in karate at Reg Park Studio in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg. He also linked up and trained under Sensei Joe Mahwai in Atteridgeville and Karate Springbok Captain, Eddie Dorey. He was awarded a Black Belt in Judo and won the Pretoria Championship in the same year.
Francis established his own Toromiyake Judo and Karate Club in Atteridgeville which produced many Black Belt Senseis over the years, namely Samuel She Mangena, Stephen Rice Motau, Charlie Ndlovu, Mister Makwela, McDonald Mampa, Lesley Maboa, Joe Khongoane, Kevin Meso, Rice Chiburi, Bernard Mphela, Peter Kotsane, Glen Machona, Moses Sebopa, Joseph Mthimkhulu, Timothy Maphanga, Molope Mokotedi, Patrick Tabane and Enoch Kekana.
In 1970 he went to train as a teacher at Hebron College, near Garankuwa where he became their Boxing Team Captain and also introduced Karate both at the college and among the village children.
In 1972 Francis was awarded the Karate Black Belt 1st Dan; 2nd Dan in 1986; 3rd Dan in 1990; and 4th Dan in 1999.
In 1972 Francis went to further his studies at the then University of the North, Turfloop where he introduced and excelled in Karate and also became the Captain of the University Boxing Team. Jackie Selebi was one of his boxers at the university. In the same year, he was the only Black who advanced to the semi-final of the Springbok Boxing Tournament but lost in what was believed to be a questionable apartheid decision and was thus prevented from travelling to Italy to represent South Africa.
In 1973 he was crowned “Sportsman of the Year” at the University. The following year, he was sadly expelled by the university because of his political activities. He was the secretary of the Students Representative Council. He had found himself in an intellectually stimulating environment that was politically charged. His other contemporaries who also expressed the same discontent that Francis felt at the university, included luminaries like Terror Lekota, Jackie Selebi, Cyril Ramaphosa, Matthew Phosa, Angie and Mathole Motshekga.
In 1976 as probably, the only Sensei triple qualified in Karate, Judo and Boxing, he opened a Dojo in Atteridgeville.
In the same year Francis started his teaching career at Tembisa High School, near Olifantsfontein and became the Maths and Science Head of Department in 1988. When the new Ingqayizivele Secondary School was established, Francis became its first Principal. He was such a hardworking and dedicated Head of the school, that from its inception, his school consistently ranked amongst the top three in matric results in Tembisa.
In 2009 Francis was honoured with a much-sought-after Lifetime Achievement Award for Education by President Jacob Zuma after a seriously contested rivalry among his peers. This placed him at the top in Gauteng and second nationally. He retired in 2013 after 37 years of sterling service in education with 25 of those as a Principal.
During those years as an educationist, Karate became his new love on which he focused as an outlet to relieve himself of stresses of his heavy responsibilities. He became so involved in Karate despite his demanding work in education that he succeeded in establishing a Dojo at each of the two schools where he worked and others in Tembisa and Atteridgeville communities.
In 1978 he represented South Africa in Swaziland in Karate where he won the Championship; 1973 – 1979 he continued in the sports, training the Police in Karate at the Baviaanspoort College on part time basis; 1987 he became the then Transvaal Karate Champion; 1988 – 1991 he served as the Vice President of Budo Karate Association of South Africa; 1993 Francis led South Africa to Budapest, Hungary, where they won the World Karate Championship; he also led the South African delegation teams on several occasions to compete internationally in Nigeria, Algeria, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey; 1999 he was appointed by the then Minister of Sports, Mr Ngconde Balfour, as Head of Karate Steering Committee to unify Karate; in the same year he was awarded a 5th Dan Karate Grading by Karate South Africa; 2001 – 2003 he trained the then Scorpions, now known as the Hawks, in Karate on part time basis; 2003 he was awarded Senior Protea Colours when as Manager he took a National Karate Team to the All Africa Games; 2004 a Gauteng North Tournament was held in his honour and in the same year, he was recognized by Gauteng North as Official of the Year; 2004 – 2012 he served as President of Gauteng North Karate; and in 2005 he was elected President of Karate South Africa.
In 2013 Francis was awarded 5th Dan Black Belt in Karate by Karatenomichi World Federation which was headed by Shihan Malcolm Dorfman, who was also his instructor; 2015 he shared coaching responsibilities of the Karatenomichi World Federation Team which competed in Japan where two of his students were crowned World Champions in their Divisions; 2015 Francis was honoured and appreciated by the Atteridgeville Saulsville Tennis Association with a certificate after he had rendered a life skills programme for young tennis players; on Women’s Day of the same year, he conducted training in self-defence for mothers of the children who attend training at his Dojo; and in 2016 on Women’s Day, he conducted a self-defence training session for the ladies in the Atteridgeville Saulsville Tennis Association.
Francis is the founder member of Karate South Africa and Life President of the organization. He also leads the developmental team of Karate World Federation.
He has learnt to appreciate the value of sports and training at a young age. Over a period of 55 years he has diligently inculcated the mindset and culture of sports and training in many people in his different capacities as a school teacher and principal, as head of his family and as owner of Dojos in Tembisa and Atteridgeville.
Sensei Francis who carries an honorific title of Shihan, which means Master, now selflessly continues to train and develop 40 children and youth and also conducts a Tai-Chi class at his home in Atteridgeville. Tai-Chi is meditation in motion and helps adults manage stress and work out in a moderate fashion.
The parting message of wisdom from the married father of two and three grandchildren is that the discipline taught in sports is invaluable and necessary for young people to learn in our country. He advises that it instils the integrity which is necessary to manage a family, school and business which he has learnt through many years of sports excellence. He says his life would not be the same had he chosen to be an academic only. Sports gave his life a much-needed balance.