Magongwa wants to return JBA to gold status

ONE of the most noticeable features at businessman Cabby Magongwa’s home — nestled in Africa’s richest square mile, Sandton — is a basketball court, and on the concrete turf rests plastic tiling with his media and entertainment company, Darkchild Productions.

On the surface level, it looks like Magongwa is living the dream, but that should not mask his deep love for basketball, a game he has played for almost three decades. Recently, he has answered the call to serve the game in a political capacity.

Born in Temba, Hammanskraal, a township north of South Africa’s capital, Tshwane, Magowngwa picked up the game in the most unlikeliest of countries — Lesotho.

The year was 1988, and South Africa was under the grip of the evil apartheid system. One of the ways the system oppressed the black majority was to impose substandard education. So, Magongwa’s parents prudently sent a young Cabby and his sister across the Caledon River to boarding school to access a better education.

Speaking to The Big Tip Off, Magongwa explained how difficult it was leaving family behind and adjusting to a new situation.

“Leaving my family was tough. But you have to understand I lived in the hood, and that was all one knew. When you went to other parts of country, like Cape Town and Durban, you found that they were under strict control (apartheid laws) and your parents were the ones guiding you,” said Magongwa.

Cabby Magongwa
Cabby Magongwa learnt to play basketball in Lesotho. Pictures: The BTO

He says moving to Lesotho rocked the foundation of his life.

“The issue was leaving the country as an 11-year-old and heading to boarding school, something I had never of. From there, you have to figure it out because your mom is not there to make breakfast, and your brothers and sisters are not there to take care of you,” said Magongwa. “Luckily, I had my other sister with me, but still… Being removed from everything and everyone you love was hard. I think that life experience is worth a degree.”

There is no degree for life experience, but Magongwa, who returned to South Africa in 1994, says being in the enclave country helped shape the man he is.

“It is said travelling is a degree, and I believe that. I learnt life lessons from being out there, alone and not depending on other people. It prepared me for the future… Knowing that in order to be successful everything rests on your efforts,” said Magongwa.

“That was a life-changing moment. If I did not leave home, I do not think I would be where I am today. Maybe I would be in a far worse situation.”

Magongwa, who coincidentally returned to South Africa the year it became a democracy (1994), would pursue his studies at the University of Pretoria and played for the Tuks team. The democratic dispensation coincided with the temporary rise of basketball in the country.

“I returned to the country when it had become a democracy and basketball was thriving. That was probably the best time to be in South Africa to play basketball. So, when I came back I plugged in,” said Magongwa, who also played for Wits University and Ghent University in Belgium.

Reflecting on his playing days, Magongwa says despite not being the tallest player on the court, he brought the spark whenever the teams he played on needed it.

“I was an All-Star at the varsity level. It showed you don’t have to be tall to play basketball. I was an energiser bunny, and when I had the ball, you needed a lot of speed to catch me. Also, I was a good dribbler and shooter,” said Magongwa.


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After closing the chapter on university life, the former point guard ventured into the world of work. But after working for a few corporates, Magongwa realised that formal employment was not his cup of tea.

“I did not like any of the jobs I did, and I felt like I was trapped. One day, they talked about trying to get us into the management level and what the plan was,” said Magongwa. “I told them, ‘I do not plan on being here for long as I want to do something that involves basketball’. ‘The lady asked what are you still doing here’? And that is when I resigned.”

That was when his brainchild, Darkchild Productions, which was already in the works, came to life. The name Darkchild was inspired by R’n’B artists who used open music videos with the catchy phrase in the early 2000s.

“I had prepared myself for that leap of faith. I got JDA (Johannesburg Development Agency) to commit to providing courts in Newtown, where we ran our programs. They also gave us a marketing budget for some of the events we ran,” said Magongwa. “The name came from listening to the likes of Brandy and Toni Braxton. You would hear them open their music with the word, ‘Darkchild’. When I researched further, I learned that Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jenkins was the one who produced the music.

“I chose the name (Darkchild) because it had a cool ring to it. It also reminded companies, that we are the black kids on the block trying to do something. If they are looking for a BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) partner we are here.”

Magongwa continued: “Darkchild was a platform for all the work I did in basketball. I did not have much at the time. All I had was R5000 from my provident fund… My brain and my time.”

Cabby Magongwa Dreals Paris
Cabby Magongwa wants to bring change to the Joburg basketball scene.

While still involved in business, Magongwa has brought his skills to the grassroots. A few months ago, after realising that only complaining about the poor state of the game in the Joburg district would not help, he decided to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. 

Magongwa, who has been the presidential hot seat of the Johannesburg Basketball Association (JBA) for a couple of months, hopes he and his executive will have hopefully steadied the ship in time for elections next year. 

“I have played in the association’s masters league. There and in other spaces, we spoke about how unhappy we were with basketball’s lack of direction,” said Magongwa. “I realised we needed to be the change we want to see. So, I had to make myself available. I own my time so I can dedicate myself to seeing basketball grow.”

Magongwa, who outlined the objectives on social media when he took office, hopes to restore Johannesburg basketball — seen as the crown jewel of the game in the country — to its former glory.

“This a commitment I have made and want to see through. What I want to see is Joburg becoming a strong basketball mecca. This will hopefully filter to the province and then the country,” concluded Magongwa.

Magongwa and his executive have started on the right note with the return to action on the court. The Johannesburg Basketball Invitational tournament, which began a week ago in Soweto, is a prelude to a fresh start and a potentially prosperous league next year.

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