In recent years, Parliament has given impetus to the concept of a people’s Parliament and, most importantly, the constitutional imperative to include the public in its work by inviting prominent South Africans to participate in the State of the Nation Address. These individuals are nominated by the Speakers of provincial legislatures and are prominent in their fields or have otherwise been recognised for their contribution to society.

This year’s eminent South Africans invited to SONA are:

Eastern Cape

Mr Macethandile “Max” Kulati (34), a disabled bodybuilder from the impoverished Moeggesukkel in Kariega. Following an unfortunate surgery that left him partially paralysed in 2014, Mr Kulati realised that he needed to transform his negative thoughts and find pride in himself again.

“I started with powerlifting in 2018 and won the U/72kg competition, and thereafter I won every other competition that I participated in. I earned my EP colours in powerlifting and qualified for my national standards during 2020. I soon became a powerlifting champion but bade the sport farewell and started with bodybuilding,” Mr Kulati explained.

In his first ever bodybuilding competition he was crowned South African champion and in 2022 represented South Africa as a pro-wheelchair bodybuilder at the International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (IBFF) World Championship in Slovenia. Mr Kulati won that event and returned in 2023 to defend and win the title again.

“I am also a motivational and inspirational speaker, who delivers speeches with the intention of motivating and inspiring, especially the youth. I am mostly visiting schools and I use my personal life and experiences to encourage learners to look at their life’s challenges from a different perspective and motivate them to take positive action in their lives. My motto is: If I can do it, you can do it too,” Mr Kulati continued.

Free State

The Free State is represented by Moses Sello Sennane from Welkom, a community activist who leads and participates in various community initiatives, including Matjhabeng Minister’s Fraternal Quality Teaching and Learning Campaign; the Matjhabeng Civil Society and the local government and local elections team.


Mr Cleopas Nkomo Mkhondwane (80) is a businessman and storyteller best known for authoring the book “Tears of Nigel”, where he related the historical tale of the small town of Nigel, in the East of Johannesburg.

In the book, Mr Mkhondwane tells of the glorious days of Nigel as a centre of mining, sports and art. He tells how the people of Nigel were robbed of their glory. His motto: One generation owes it to the next generations to inform them of their origins.


Mr Mpho Walter Makhado (41) from the rural village of Mutale in Venda is a traditional healer and an information technology systems engineer who runs his own company, Rev Tech Group, which has had success within the sector specializing in managed services, ICT training, hardware, software and related IT services.

With his extensive ICT knowledge, he developed an app, RevMed, wherein patients can consult with a network of a traditional healers online. RevMed is the custodian of his gift as traditional healer and herbalist and was established to reach people who would otherwise not be in a position to obtain the help they need. Mr Makhado has been actively involved in campaigns to have traditional healers recognised as legitimate healthcare providers while receiving economic support from government.

After the death of his mother, who was also a traditional healer, Mr Makhado took over her practice. Since then he has become recognised for his work in traditional African medicines and herbs and also for his work in astrology and as a life coach. Mr Makhado also established a fully-fledged traditional hospital in Polokwane in 2017.


Ms Gugu Khaba is a community activist currently working as centre manager for the Masibambane Disabled Group in Tjakastad, in the province’s Gert Sibande District Municipality. Her responsibilities include conducting assessments to identify individual needs and abilities; develop and implement support plans to enhance independence; advocate for clients in various settings to ensure inclusivity and collaborate with families, healthcare professionals, and community resources.

Ms Khaba is also a Sunday school teacher at her local church and an active member of the Tjakastad Community Committee.

“I have always been motivated by the idea of making a positive impact on people’s lives. Having experienced dependency myself, I understand the challenges of not being able to do things independently. Witnessing the struggles faced by disabled individuals in accessing resources and opportunities ignited my desire to contribute. Whether it’s through technology, advocacy, skills development, or community support, I’m dedicated to creating a more inclusive and accessible world for everyone,” she said.

“What keeps me motivated is seeing the incredible skills displayed by the individuals I work with, showcasing their abilities regardless of their disabilities. Their aspirations drive me to do more, ensuring they feel a sense of belonging and importance. Every achievement, big or small, fuels my commitment to this journey of empowerment,” Ms Khaba said.

North West

The first time Mr Tete Dijana made it to Comrades Marathon in 2019, he finished in 50th place, earning himself a silver medal with a time of 6:25:03. In 2022, he joined the Nedbank Running Club, entering the 2022 Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50 km and finishing second, ahead of Edward Mothibi, who won the 2019 Comrades Marathon.

Edward and Tete ran together as the race leaders during part of the second half of the 2022 Comrades Marathon. Tete took the lead less than 10 km to the end and won the race. Edward finished in second place over three minutes behind Tete.

Mr Dijana won the 2023 Comrades Marathon (down run). Before entering running competitions, he worked as a security guard. He says that he does not plan to quit his job. Instead, he will have to balance his work and the talent that God gave him.

Northern Cape

Ms Rose Jennette Louw (71) is a retired schoolteacher who is involved in many community initiatives, especially where children and women are involved. She works very closely with key stakeholders including the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Social Development and the South African Police Service.

She has been part of the community soup kitchen, Caring Group, for a long time where she holds the position of Chairperson. Ms Louw is the go-to person whenever a crisis arise in the community. Community members applaud her on the professional manner with which she addresses issues. Her background as a former professional educator has helped her and she has gained much community respect from her work.

She is an activist in the fight against gender-based violence and homicide and was a Church Council member in the United Reformed Church in Bergsig and served on the Safe House Committee. She is currently the Chairperson of Wielie Walie Daycare School, a local school in the area.

Eminent Persons from the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are not attending.

Sakhile Mokoena
8 February 2024