Like Mother Like Daughters: Netball Brings Mrwebi Family Together

Staff Writer, 18 November 2020

It’s not all that unusual for children to want to follow in the footsteps of their parents when making their sporting choices – but the story of Phatheka Mrwebi and her two daughters is anything but ordinary.

Returning from work one Saturday afternoon to find that her eight-year-old daughter, Zizipo, had gone missing, Mrwebi was startled and petrified, as any parent would be. Her search for her baby led to even more alarming discovery: she’d joined a dance group from her community of Town Two in Khayelitsha and travelled by train to perform in Muizenberg.

“I was panic-stricken, because I knew the conditions and dangers of traveling by train,” Mrwebi recalls.

The dance group eventually returned after 10pm, when Mrwebi and other parents were bracing themselves for the worst. But what struck Mrwebi the most was her daughter’s explanation: that she had joined the group because she was bored.

That led Mrwebi to find a way to keep her occupied – by introducing a younger age division in Silver Girls Netball Club, the club she had been playing for and which she was now in charge of.  Today Zizipo, now 15 years of age, and her older sister, Asiphe (17), are playing for the same club coached and managed by their mother.

As a player-coach – and President of Khayelitsha Netball Union – Mrwebi  sometimes has to join her girls on the netball court.

“Playing in the same team has strengthened the bond between us,” she says. “I play as a defender; my younger daughter is a centre, and the older is a shooter. After matches we often rate each other’s performances and talk about tips on how to improve our game.”

And when the family is watching netball on television, Mrwebi takes the opportunity to stress the importance of issues such as discipline and remaining focused to achieve goals in life.

Like all netballers, Mrwebi is delighted that Cape Town has won the rights to host the 2023 Netball World Cup. But she has some reservations on how that will really affect the conditions netball clubs are operating under – especially in disadvantaged communities.

“It is still very tough for netball in Cape Town,” she says. “We pay affiliation fees but we don’t get anything in return. We have to pay out of our pockets for everything.

“Yes, we are hosting the 2023 World Cup, and we are happy about that. But I don’t know if we will benefit as clubs from the disadvantaged communities,” she says. “But maybe things will change in the future – especially if more people learn about the game, and how we play it.”