So often, we hear about the flower that stubbornly sprouted through concrete. Well, Thato Raselemane was just that: someone with promise who, despite all odds, pushed out of poverty towards the light of success.

Thato was a bright, but conflicted, young man who was born and bred in the dusty streets of Alexandra township, Johannesburg. He rose through hardship and personal turmoil to become one of the foremost law practitioners in the country.

As a boy Thato had witnessed something that would change his life. One chilly afternoon, while he was coming back home covered in dust, and full of energy from a day’s worth of field play, he heard a loud bellowing from one of the shacks in the neighborhood. The bellow was followed by a sharp cry.

“Help, help! He’s killing me!” a woman’s voice pleaded. As Thato came closer, he saw it was his own father, beating his mother like a wild beast. She dropped to the floor, blood and snot oozing from her nostrils.

“Stop! Stop beating Mama! Please stop!” Thato cried as he rushed into the yard and threw himself at his father. He gripped his father’s leg, begging him for mercy and trying to pull him away from his beloved mother. Angered, his father retaliated, punching Thato twice in the face, and kicking him in the stomach, before storming away.

“You’re both worthless excuses of people. You deserve each other. Voetsek!” his father shouted over his shoulder as he strode off.

Thato was only seven years old at the time but he never forgot that incident – one of many. His childhood scarred him severely and he endured abuse and neglect.

At last his parents divorced. Thato felt deep relief that his mother was no longer subject to his father’s wrath. But then she fell into a depression. It was an emotional abyss of despair, which in time led to drugs. He watched as she became addicted and lived only for the next hit.

Thus Thato was responsible for himself entirely, as well as for his mother. He was forced to be self-reliant from an early age.

With every passing year of having to tend to his mother, the young boy, who was once brimming with joy and who’s eyes burnt with a passion for life, grew pre-occupied and absent-minded. His school work took a knock along with his confidence. He got through each grade by the skin of his teeth.


Tell us: What does the future hold for Thato, if things continue like this?