Cerebral palsy, a rare disorder that affects the spinal cord, has not stopped Ronewa Mudzanani from taking to the court to exhibit his talent. The Limpopo tennis player reckons that he was born for greatness.
Wheelchair-bound Mudzanani’s breakthrough came in 2016 when he was nominated as one of the finalists in the Limpopo Sports Awards. He walked away with the top prize. He then captured the interest of Tennis South Africa, where he was selected to be part of the national side’s quad class.
As he progressed well into his tennis career, Mudzanani featured for the national team during the 2021 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, where Team South Africa won a bronze medal following a stellar performance.
Mudzanani quotes from Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution: “Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.”
Born and raised deep in the rural village of Vhuri Vhuri in Limpopo, the 24-year-old tennis player’s upbringing was not kind. He shares that using a wheelchair to get around has since opened his eyes to seek out more opportunities.
“I was only raised by my mother with the help of my grandmother. While growing up, things were tough for me, especially living with this condition,” said Mudzanani.
As a result, he was enrolled in a boarding school for essential and special care, where his love for tennis developed. “I started to play tennis while I was in grade 9 at the Thohoyandou Technical School. This was in 2014.
“Well, when I was sent to the boarding school, I thought my mother didn’t love me. But as time went on, I started to understand why she had to do that. I didn’t know this is where my life will turn around. I started playing tennis, something that still fascinates me to this day.”
He cites wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole and the multi-talented Kgothatso Montjane as some of the people who inspired him to follow his passion.
But Mudzanani explains that although he has achieved so much in a short space of time, he still faces many challenges, including getting donations for his spinal cord treatment.
“In 2017, I was told that I would live with this condition for the rest of my life. I still break down and cry because I expected to heal quicker from the condition. I had thought that by now, I would be fine,” he shares.
“I was constantly travelling to see a doctor, and often times I will be left with no penny. On the other hand, I had to support my family with the little money that I get from playing tennis.”
As a result of never-ending challenges, Mudzanani could not finish his higher education course in mechanical engineering at Tshwane South College because of financial hardships. But he still wishes to go back to college and finish what he started.
A non-profit organisation, Mavu Sport Development, has since been set up to raise funds for the tennis player, including many other sportspeople in rural areas.
Bram van Wijck, the founder of Mavu Sport Development, has embarked on a national drive to raise funds for Mudzanani. “In terms of the budget that can support his life and to further make his country proud, he needs R150 000 to enable him to join a few competitions and [to get treatment for] his condition,” says Van Wijck.
“Through our organisation, we have managed to conclude a contract with a private clinic that is currently taking good care of him.”
People who are willing to make contributions to assist Mudzanani get treatment for his spinal cord are urged to contact the Mavu Sport Development.
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