Moses Mabhida Stadium is one of Durban’s major tourism attraction sites, but for the Nene family it is a painful memory.
The Nenes from Hammarsdale have vowed never to go to the stadium because their son Sibusiso, who has since died, never got the recognition he deserved. Back in 2004 when he was in Grade 11, Sibusiso made headlines for his stadium model crafted in wire.
His family believes he was the creative genius behind the stadium’s design who was not honoured – a claim former eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba supports. In an interview with Mlaba last week, he said one of his regrets was not following up with Sibusiso.
“One of the good things that happened during my time as the mayor was the Moses Mabhida Stadium. I will never forget this young man who came with a model crafted in wires, which is the concept of the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“I referred him to the technical team who were in charge of the stadium. Indeed the whole framework you see of the stadium came from that child from Hammarsdale. It was his idea.
“I so wish councillors from Hammarsdale could identify at least his family,” said Mlaba.
He said he had met Nene at an event at the Mpumalanga Stadium. Nene had gone to show him the stadium crafted in wires.
“He is the brains behind it. I want to make it public that he needs to be honoured. We are known worldwide for this stadium, and people love it. I so wish councillors can find his family and do some kind of remembrance because we are like this because of him. It was his idea.
“When he approached me, I asked for him to be included and indeed he was. I heard very late that he had died and when I asked about him, no one knew anything.
“For me, that is the sad part, that I don’t know how I can complete it. If I had a way to take it forward right to its completion I’m sure the current leadership will look into it and revisit and see how they can honour him,” said Mlaba.
Independent Media visited the family this week and Sipho Nene, Sibusiso’s father, was angry. He said he had never set foot in the stadium.
“I don’t even wish to go to Moses Mabhida Stadium. Looking at it hurts. My son got nothing out of it.
“I remember that after Sibusiso had approached the mayor, he was called to do presentations with city engineers and they liked his project.
“People from the municipality used to take him from home and bring him back later because they were still using him. They took my son’s idea and sidelined him afterwards. My son was never credited for his idea, and he never received any payment. When they started building the stadium, they started ignoring him,” said Nene senior.
Sibusiso died in January 2009, after a short illness. He never got to see his artist’s impression come alive or attend the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“Sibusiso was talented and he was going very far with his talent. He used to dream and then wake up to draw exactly what he dreamt about, and that is what happened with Moses Mabhida Stadium
“But today no one knows about him. Instead credit went to some people as if it was their original idea. He even won student awards for the model of the stadium and received a mayoral certificate.
“On the day of his funeral, some people came and said they were sent by engineers who wanted to know what was in his original plan because they didn’t know how to complete the stadium. They asked if they should leave the stadium open or closed at the top. It’s that part where they ended up putting a sky car because no one was able to chat with them properly at home because they had come at the wrong time,” said Nene senior.
The family said they had tried to get attention from the officials, but had no success.
“I used to be in and out of the municipal offices. I wanted to know how they could use my son’s idea, then exclude him, but till this day no one has assisted us. Each time we went to Mlaba’s office, we were told he was not available.
“The last time I went there was last year, and we spoke with the mayor’s adviser, Joe Nene, who said no one knew about my son and we should bring the evidence which we had.
“I know money will never wake up my son from the dead, but his name needs to be included as one of the designers. It will mean a lot and we would appreciate some cash because their architects were paid.
“At some point I ended up receiving threatening calls from a private number, someone who was saying I should leave this matter because I’d regret it,” he said.
Joe Nene confirmed knowing the family but said the design of the stadium was completed before his time at the mayor’s office.
“They (the family) used to come to our offices and when I asked the management, no one knew about their son’s design. It’s why I told them to bring evidence because that would have helped,” he said.