It is with fondness and sadness that the Cape Town road running community remember Stragglers Social and Athletic Club stalwarts Abdul Gamiet “Mitch” Salie, long-serving chairman Walter Jaftha and former club runner Mark Waverley.
All three were very involved with the Strandfontein-based club and the community and died in recent months – Salie in early March, Jaftha in April and Waverley at the end of June.
Salie was a founder-member of the club and its first chairman when it was established in 1996, said Pro Arumugam, a member of the club’s executive committee.
An avid runner, Salie completed numerous marathon mega challenges like the Comrades Marathon and the 100km Hewat ultra race.
“He served on the club’s executive committee throughout his life and wore many hats – from secretary to start/finish co-ordinator at our race events as well as co-ordinator for our children’s winter programme,” said Arumugam.
He said that Gamiet was well respected in the club, not only for his administrative abilities but also for his love of children and for his personal achievements as an athlete.
“It was a sad day when Mitch passed away. A week earlier he had co-ordinated the club’s presentation of awards,” Arumugam said.
“Mitch, his family and members of SSAC started a feeding scheme providing meals on a regular basis to the needy, especially the homeless people living along the Strandfontein beach area.”
Barely a month after Gamiet’s death, the club lost its long-serving chairman, Walter Jaftha.
Anyone who knows the running scene in Cape Town, knows the name Jaftha is synonymous with Stragglers.
Arumugam, along with other club members, worked with him on various projects.
“He registered with the club as a walker just looking to keep fit and enjoy the leisurely sport. However, his drive and enthusiasm turned him into a competitive walker participating in as many races (held under the auspices of Western Province Athletic) as he could,” said Arumugam.
“During those years he won a number of awards in the club as a walker. He then decided to take to jogging and running which held him in good stead.
“He also took over as chairperson of the club and held the position for five consecutive years.
“After a brief break, he was recalled to this position and remained there until his death.
“Mitch together with Walter and the exco initiated the Beachcomber Race Against Crime during the turbulent years of violence in the Mitchell’s Plain/Strandfontein areas.”
While remembering the club’s founding fathers, Arumugam also paid tribute to the younger generation of members who helped to build the club.
“Mark Waverley was a runner of note, not only for ability but for his coaching prowess and his informal motivational talks,” Arumugam said.
“He encouraged many of us to take up the challenge of participating in marathons and mega-marathons, helping those who were struggling to meet the cut-off times.
“He was not interested in achieving great times for himself, putting that aside to help others.
“A friendly and smiling face always greeted the members at the end of a race.
“We’ve achieved many milestones in our 24-year history. These were achieved by the effort of every member of the club, with special mention of these three extraordinary men,” said Arumugam.