March 1, 2024

Former Proteas player aims to make a difference through her Tekkie Drive initiative

CAPE TOWN – Wanting to make a difference in her community and society has been one of Zandile Njeza’s goals to achieve in life.

The former Proteas netball player’s dream of giving back is becoming a reality through an initiative that she started this year.

Currently working as the assistant coach for the Eastern Cape Aloes in the Telkom Netball League, Njeza gives back to the community by collecting donated shoes to assist young girls in need through her ‘Tekkie Drive’ initiative. 

“I started this drive in April this year and what motivated me is that while I was coaching a local team in Mdantsane, I saw that those kids are lacking proper netball playing shoes so I took this initiative to seek tekkie donations for this cause,” said Njeza.

Retired from netball at the age of 40, Njeza has never stayed away from the game that she passionately loves and was roped into coaching.

Born and bred in Mdantsane, East London, Njeza could not sit back and watch young girls in her community struggle.

The former national team player is also the mother to Asekho Njeza, an Eastern Cape Comets player, another Eastern Cape team in the TNL.

“While I was still a player I used to help out upcoming players and even my daughter used to take out the shoes that she is not using and give them out to the players who are in need.

“In a year we would have up to five pairs of shoes to give away because in netball you cannot play and train with the same shoe. So, it has been my dream to plough back to my community and see Mdantsane give birth to another Zandile.”

The 46-year-old Njeza discovered her talent for playing netball at the age of nine.

At 14, she made it to her school Mzomhle High School’s first team.

She says through her community she has managed to draw strength and got motivated.

“My community is grateful for the work I am doing so far, I get recognition for it and I get so much comfort in knowing what I do is appreciated in my community,” said Njeza.

“What I am doing is empowering girl children, bringing sport in communities and is bringing young people back to netball. Some are not playing because they don’t want to play, they are not playing simply because they lack resources.”

The initiative has been getting recognition and responses not only from her community but all over the country, but Njeza believes a lot still needs to be done.

Even though it was started in Mdantsane and for now helping in her community, she says as time goes by she aims to reach other areas across the province that she says are facing the same problem.

“I love the help that I have been getting so far and some of my friends are coming together to help, they are buying shoes – even outside the province,” she continues.

“I have Zelda Smith that is collecting in East London in the former model C schools as well, I have people that I met through school sports programmes that are also rallying behind me.

“The whole sporting fraternity is rallying behind me and so much work still needs to be done to reach the end goal.”

Njeza has no financial backing and sponsors, for now, all that she is doing is from her pocket and means. And even those who are donating, she still makes her way to collect from them.

She is calling for funders and sponsors in the province to rally behind her and support her. She says that any contribution, whether big or small will make a huge difference.

Trying to make a better life for the young girls in East London, she coordinated the revival of Mdantsane netball and the establishment of new structures.

Currently busy with her pioneering up-and-coming coaches in the area with the skill she has. 

She completed level 2 coaching in 2019.

She is also a Buffalo City coach since 2021 and assisted in the formation of the Sara Baartman netball.

“People can get involved and spread the word, you never know, maybe it might reach the right people who can assist,” she adds.

“All I want is to put the smile of the young girls out there and make their dream come true.

“They have what it takes, with the amount of support they are getting, there’s no reason for not winning it. We support them 100%, use your home ground, play your part you have an advantage – use it.”

With the experience she has in coaching, Njeza’s dream is to see herself be part of the Proteas technical team one day.

Lastly, Njeza also wishes the Proteas team goodluck for the upcoming Vitality Netball World Cup tournament that will be hosted in Cape Town later this month and has called on them to do all they can to make sure that the World Cup trophy remains in South Africa.

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