Simphiwe Mntambo, a switchboard operator at Netcare Clinton Hospital, was recently appointed assistant coach of South Africa’s national Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team.

People phoning Netcare Clinton Hospital in Alberton may not be aware that when switchboard operator, Simphiwe Mntambo, answers their call, they are speaking to a talented local wheelchair basketball star with international sporting experience who was recently appointed assistant coach of South Africa’s national Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team.

Netcare’s regional director: Gauteng South West, Sandile Mbele, congratu­lated Mntambo on his achievement. “Simphiwe’s passion for his sport, and the hard work and dedication he has put into mastering wheelchair basketball is gaining him the recognition he deserves. We are extremely proud of him, and on behalf of his Netcare colleagues, we wish him everything of the best as he takes on this exciting new challenge,” Mbele says.

Mntambo’s interest in wheelchair basket­ball developed rapidly from an early age, and he began playing this sport at school when he was in Grade Seven. “In 2005, I was awarded KwaZulu-Natal Colours. The following year, at the age of 18, I was selected for the KwaZulu-Natal Under-23 men’s team.”

The promising young sportsman also excelled at athletics and had to make a choice between focusing on shot-put and javelin, or pursuing basketball. “One of the things I love about basketball is that it is a team sport, whereas in athletics you play for yourself only. In wheelchair bas­ketball you get to know your teammates, and you have to understand and support each other’s strengths,” he explains.

Mntambo was selected for the South African Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team in 2007, and in 2008 he was a member of the team that quali­fied for the 2009 men’s U23 Wheelchair Basketball World Cup held in Paris, which he describes as a great experience. He has since reached new heights in his chosen sport, and was appointed captain of the KZN Seniors team in 2019.

He gained further experience coaching school wheelchair basketball and the Under-23 KwaZulu-Natal women’s team, known as the KZN Warriors, before recently accepting the appointment from Wheelchair Basketball South Africa (WBSA) as assistant coach of the national Under-23 men’s team.

An excited Mntambo says: “In March* I will be going with the team to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where we will be competing in the Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.”

According to Mntambo, Taylor Downs, the reception manager at Netcare Clinton Hospital, has been particularly support­ive of him since he joined the hospital in 2018 and helped him with the necessary motivations and paperwork to obtain a wheelchair through his medical scheme.

“When Simphiwe came to work here, he did not have a wheelchair and would come to work on crutches in all weather conditions, carrying his bag on his back. He never complained but I offered to help him with his application to the Netcare Medical Scheme for a wheelchair, which he said would make his life a little easier. Last year he received a beautiful new mobility aid according to his specifica­tions, which he now uses every day to get around,” Downs notes.

“Simphiwe is an asset to our team, and a popular member of staff. We are delighted that he has this opportu­nity to further pursue his passion. He has also offered to coach the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital wheelchair bas­ketball team, which gives an indication of his caring nature and eagerness to help and motivate others.”

“I’ve been working towards this coaching goal for a long time, and I want to give back to Netcare by sharing my coaching skills to hopefully help motivate dif­ferently abled persons as part of their physical rehabilitation programme,” says Mntambo, who completed a learnership through Netcare’s Sinako Learnership project at Netcare Parklands Hospital in Durban, before transferring to Netcare Clinton Hospital, south of Johannesburg.

Netcare’s Sinako Project was launched in 2012 to assist unemployed young differently abled South Africans to enter the mainstream economy. The project offers structured internships and learner­ships in a number of fields to provide opportunities for them to develop skills that will afford them real opportunities in the workplace. For the 2020 intake year, Netcare is offering Sinako learner­ship placements for 50 youths as part of the Group’s commitment to the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative.

The general manager of Netcare Clinton Hospital, Esme Abrahams, commended Mntambo for his hard work both on the basketball courts and in his duties on the hospital switchboard. “Simphiwe’s enthu­siasm and energy show us all what it is possible to achieve with the right attitude and work ethic. He is an inspiration to his colleagues and we wish him and the team well for their tournament in Dubai and beyond,” she concluded.


Unfortunately the tournament in Dubai was cancelled at the last minute due to the corona­virus, however Simphiwe has been assisting with the National Women’s Team with the Afro Paralympic Qualifiers.

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