For The People

The Story of Rosina Sedibane Modiba

Rosina Sedibane Modibane was born in Atteridgevile, Tshwane, and became an accomplished track-and-field athlete in the 1970’s. Her accomplishments paved the way for a generation of black female athletes. Her contributions and achievements in the athletics world fell through the cracks, as her story was never told. This inspired Lorato Trok to sit down and pen this biography about this monumental female athlete. The biography titled Against All Odds, The Story of Rosina Sedibane Modiba was published and edited by Lorraine Sithole for Geko Publishing in 2019.

Against The Odds

The biography takes the reader through Rosina’s life from an early age, her life as a runner and how her dream was cut short. It highlights the trials and tribulations of a woman black athlete striving to be recognised in a time where racial discrimination was at its peak, and the effects of a partriachial society on her career.

The Soweto Uprisings of 1976, which were triggered by the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in the Bantu Education Act, saw young Rosina’s involvement in the demonstrations. Black students mobilised themselves and marched peacefully in demonstration against the unwanted legislation. On June 16 1976, Rosina was part of the group of students who marched to Orlando Stadium. Their pathway was blocked by armed police who fired teargas and live ammunition at them. The then 18 year old Rosina was caught in the crossfire and grazed by a bullet, although she did not suffer any serious injuries, on her head she bears the mark of her struggle against the apartheid regime.

The biography also narrates the relationship and impact that James Mokoka had on Rosina and other female athletes’ running careers. James took an interest in black female athletes who were under-represented. This as few existed or were brave enough to take on a path filled with obstacles. James formed South Africa’s first black athletics club in Soweto which came to be known as Soweto Hartze. With little and no resources he coached Rosina who proved to be a gifted runner.

Rosina Sedibane became a dominant force in the athletics world of South Africa, becoming the first woman to break national records in 1974. The following year she astonishingly made history by being the first woman from South African Amateur Athletics Federation to be allowed to run in the mixed race South African Multinational Cross Country Championship. Although she did not win the race and placed 22nd, the experience was a confidence booster. On the 15th of December the athlete  further became came second in the 800m behind the South African white federation record-holder Aneen De Jager thus out-witting established athletes in the middle-distance at the Vernon Barnes Memorial Meeting. Rosina set a new record of 2 minutes, 9, 5 seconds in the 800m in the black federations.

She made an astonishing break in history when she broke 1500m record at the Vaal Reefs Mine in Orkney making her the first black female athlete to win a gold medal in that distance.

In March of 1977, at the Pilditch Stadium she was the first black female athlete to compete at that stadium, and also the first to win a provincial title in the multi- racial meets by beating the favourite Ria Hugo in the 1500m race. Rosina continued in many other meets were she outdid herself.

Rosina’s running journey was barely experienced by her loved ones as most stadiums were situated in areas were black people either needed permission to enter or were prohibited by the apartheid government.

The phenomenal runners dream was cut short at her peak when she attained an unexplained injury. While busy with chores at home she slipped and felt excruciating pain in her right knee.  X-Rays showed no injuries and the doctors were unable to diagnose her.  She was however later diagnosed with lateral meniscus which meant that her cartilage was cracked.  In 1985 her perserverance won her the SA Inter-Colleges blacks 800m. Rosina stopped running soon after this competition, and only ran fun runs to keep fit.

Rosina Sediba currently lives and teaches in her hometown Tshwane, Atterridgeville at a school that was named after her to commemorate her achievements in sports. She also received a lifetime award in 2016 which was presented by former Minister of Arts and Culture Mr Thulas Nxesi.

This book comes at a time when patriarchy still plagues our society, where women are still under-represented in many fields This book lays the foundation in recording a black woman’s history, trials, and achievements in an authentic manner after many centuries of being unrecognised.  Lorato excelled in telling Rosina’s story in a simple, easy to read book that can be enjoyed by many teenagers and adults, perhaps a book that should be in the libraries of schools and placed on the shelves of history.

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