2022 AVBOB Poetry Competition: Investing in South Africa’s Heritage    
Tue, 20 September 2022

Eleven talented poets – one for each official language of South Africa – were announced as the overall winners of the 2022 AVBOB Poetry Competition at a gala prize-giving at the Pretoria Country Club on Wednesday evening, 21 September 2022. The sparkling event was a celebration of the power of poetry to bring people together, to build community, and to offer uplifting words in times of loss.
AVBOB CEO Carl van der Riet in his keynote address described poetry as an art that has a unique ability to bypass the rational mind and logical intellectual process and to speak directly to the heart.
“We have a rich heritage of poetry in South Africa. So as we each observe Heritage Day on 24 September, I would like to encourage all of us to also remember this unique part of our heritage which has served as such a beacon of hope and inspiration for people.”
Each winner received a prize which included R10 000 cash, a R2 500 book voucher, and an elegant trophy. Each guest also received a copy of the annual anthology containing the winning poems, I wish I’d said… Vol. 5, which was launched at the event.
Supporting mother-tongue voices
Van der Riet explained that, “The support of mother-tongue voices has been a primary aim of the AVBOBPoetry Project since the very beginning and so the editors were encouraged that 65% of all poems entered were written in South Africa’s vernacular languages.” He further noted that the AVBOB Poetry Library now contains over 17 000 poems, each of which earned the poet a usage fee of R300. That amounts to over R5.2m spent on building a cultural repository of poems available to those who need words of comfort and consolation.
The top six poems in each language appear in the anthology accompanied by an English translation. A selection of commissioned poems and four Khoisan poems from the Bleek and Lloyd collection round out the anthology. This comprehensive collection was compiled by the editor-in-chief of the AVBOB Poetry Competition, Johann De Lange, and the esteemed Xitsonga academic, literary translator and founding chair of the PAN South African Language Board, Professor Nxalati CP Golele. 
De Lange said, “Poetry bears witness to our lives, our loves and our losses. It helps us traverse major transitions, giving us the words to name the feelings and to tame the emotions. It helps us to fathom what we must live for, define what we must protect, and focus on what we must promote in a changing world.”
Viewers around the country participated simultaneously via livestream on AVBOB Poetry’s social media channels. The event was emceed by Rozanne McKenzie and Bolele Polisa who introduced each winner. They were joined on stage by Urban Strings Acoustic String Trio, who performed a medley of heart-warming works for two violins and a cello.
In alphabetical order of language category, the 2022 AVBOB Poetry Prize (1st place) winners are: Clinton V. du Plessis (Afrikaans), Letitia Matthews (English), Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana (isiNdebele), Sipho Kekezwa(isiXhosa), Nomkelemane Langa (isiZulu), Pabalelo Maphutha (Sepedi), Kgobani Mohapi (Sesotho), Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong (Setswana), Prisca Nkosi (Siswati), Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba (Tshivenḓa) and Pretty Shiburi (Xitsonga).
To order I Wish I’d Said… Vol.5 SMS the word 'POEM' to 48423 (at a standard cost of R1.50 per SMS) to have it posted to you at a total cost of R240. Alternatively, email your order to or find it at selected bookstores. Visit to find elegiac poems for reading aloud at funerals or to include in memorial leaflets, and to register to enter the 2023 AVBOB Poetry Competition (which closes on 30 November 2022).
In alphabetical order of language category, the 2022 AVBOB Poetry Competition winners are:
Afrikaans winner Name: Clinton V. du Plessis
Poem: Leemte
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Jennifer Pape Herman Wasserman Hannes Visser Elna van Niekerk Magda van der Merwe
Poem alle eindes is volkome Ouerhuis Voëls weet Duiwe gee my dan...

English winner Name: Letitia Matthews 
Poem: Time Of Death
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Ian Bell  Bongani Ndimande  Sarah Frost  Shari Daya  Siphiwe Mathebula 
Poem A nocturne in 
the rain
An Unforgettable Township Funeral  Henna has the scent of heaven The work of dying Our Mother 

isiNdebele winner Name: Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana 
Poem: Ithemba alibulali 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Bongani Kleinbooi Skhosana Zamokwakhe Mkhize  Thobile Skosana  Ntombifuthi Prudence Mnguni  Sinenhlanhla Masilela
Poem Iindlela zoke zidlula kusomnini  Unamandl’ UZimu Esimkhonzako  Ngitjhaphulukile Maswaphelo Uyazifeza iinthembiso zakhe

isiXhosa winner Name: Sipho Kekezwa 
Poem: ICocekavaras 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Bulelani Yaguga  Sisikelelwe Dlekana  Simphiwe Nolutshungu  Siwaphiwe Fortune Shweni  Kwenzile Nokuthula Nsele
Poem Kufa Undenzile Limathumb'antaka Umtshato Ndlela-ntle, makroti-ndini! Yiba ngumzekelo omhle

isiZulu winner Name: Nomkelemane Langa 
Poem: Mhla lishona ilanga 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Bongani Mavuso  Happy Mbalenhle Mchunu Kwandile Hadebe  Melusi Mvelase S’fiso Oscar Zwelihle Mkhize
Poem Insika 
Waguqa umngamanzi  Ingonyama yokufa Leyo mvunge yezinyembezi  UShona Ferguson

Sepedi winner Name: Pabalelo Maphutha 
Poem: Se išeng dipelo mafiša
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Precious Thathane  Mapule Ramaila Moswane  Lethabo Zanele Nhlapo  Mahlatsi Maqwenjo  Tshepiso Makgoloane
Poem  Koko Raisibe O fodile  Mo felegetš ka tlotlo Phatlalatšo ya phahlwana ya mohu Ge ke eya go khutša

Sesotho winner Name: Kgobani Mohapi 
Poem: Ke o entseng?
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Moeketsi Paul Mofokeng  Nthofela Merriam Seobi  Patrick Sizwe Mofokeng  Tseliso Masolane  Ithabeleng Mosiana
Poem Bohloko  Moratuwa  Boella le ya ja! Madi a keledi Lerato la nnete

Setswana winner Name: Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong 
Poem: Tsholofelo 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Raymond Motsage  Nzimeni Jimmy Pitch  Ontiretse Lentotwane  Keamogetse Molaiwa Boipelo Molefe
Poem Loso   Mmino  Katlego Bo re setse  Lerato la kgaitsadi
Siswati winner Name: Prisca Nkosi
Poem: Imihuzuko 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Beketele Mahlalela  Nonzwelo Bhila  Nonkululeko Mashele  Ishmael Tshepiso Mokoena  Mhlawuleni Mashego
Poem Lindza buvivane bakho Nemkhumbi uhlangabetana netiphepho elwandle Wani uphindze uvuke Vaccine Say No to GBV 

Tshivenḓa winner Name: Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba 
Poem: Maḓuvha a mudali 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Billy Masuluke  Mafutha Mengwai Prince Masuluke  Portia Mulaudzi Rabelani Mutshatshi 
Poem  Muvhulahi Ri vhafhiri shangoni  Musi ndi tshi 
ḓo ṱuwa
Ndivhuwo kha vhaongi Zwo itwa nga u sa pfa 

Xitsonga winner Name: Pretty Shiburi 
Poem: N'hwembe 
Runners-up 2nd place 3rd place 4th place 5th place 6th place
Poet Muhluri Devine Maceke  Portia T Rikhotso DR Valoyi  Vukosi Mugaza Hlungwani  Laster Rhulani Lavhengwa 
Poem U wanuna U kotisile mberha  Vuya ka mina  Hi 
AVBOB, nyeleti ya rixaka 

Clinton V. du Plessis (Afrikaans)
Clinton V. du Plessis resides in Cradock in the Eastern Cape where he works as an accountant. He is a prolific poet with many poetry collections to his name and his work has appeared in translation in the international arena. Listening to stories on the radio was a powerful formative influence in his childhood. He particularly loved listening to PH Nortje’s Die groen ghoen and was desperately keen to read the book. His father, who was a labourer on the railways, persuaded his boss to borrow the book from the library on young Clinton’s behalf. His winning poem ‘Leemte’ is an achingly tender and beautiful tribute, written in honour of his father. 
Letitia Matthews (English)
Letitia Matthews feels blessed to live on the southern border of the Kruger National Park with her husband, Peter. She’s a freelance web and graphic designer who found in poetry a suitable vehicle to carry her through heart-breaking losses. As a cancer survivor, she realised that loss also leads to new life and adventures. These experiences opened a deep well of empathy for others navigating bereavement. Her poem 'Time Of Death' comes from the dark nights and empty days that eventually led to her embracing life again. This is her first writing award.
Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana (isiNdebele)
Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana is known in spoken word poetry circles as Gembe Da Poet. He comes from KwaDlawulale in Limpopo, and after discovering a love of writing poetry in 2018, he went on to establish a reputation as a vibrant and successful slam poet. His poem ‘Ithemba alibulali’ encourages youth to be strong, to resist fear, and to remain faithful when grief strikes. Although he doesn't yet have a formal job, he believes that by entering the AVBOB Poetry Competition he is showing the world his writing talent. 
Sipho Kekezwa (isiXhosa)
Sipho Kekezwa is a prolific and multi-award-winning author of children's books, dramas, short stories and young adult novels. He started his writing life as a voracious reader. Various of his titles have won earned significant acclaim over the years, but this is his first poetry award. His dramatic work, Ubomi, ungancama!,published by Oxford University Publishers in 2020, won the 2021 SALA Award in the Youth Literature category. Sipho’s winning poem ‘ICocekavaras’ is a plea to heed common sense and a call to get vaccinated. After living in Khayelitsha for 26 years, he recently returned to East London to continue his work as a freelance editor, proofreader, translator, book reviewer and creative writing facilitator.

Nomkelemane Langa (isiZulu)
Nomkelemane Langa claims the majestic rolling hills of northern KwaZulu-Natal as his geographic and cultural heritage. Born in the deep rural village of Nkandla he now resides in Richards Bay where he freelances as a TV producer and presenter, Maskandi singer and guitarist, author, poet, crafter, actor and MC. 
His winning poem ‘Mhla lishona ilanga’ is an aching portrait of grief set between the last light of dusk and the first light of dawn. Nomkelemane started writing poetry in high school as a member of the Isulabasha Dancing Pencils Writing Club. He attributes his success to the ancestral promptings that guide his words.
Pabalelo Maphutha (Sepedi)
Praise poems and powerful words were Pabalelo Maphutha’s inheritance at birth. He was born into a family of traditional praise poets and writers in rural Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo, and grew up with a deep love of the written and spoken word. He began writing and performing his own poems in the mid-2000s, while still at school. After completing matric, his appetite for the artistic life drove him to Gauteng to pursue his dream. He has appeared in various theatrical and film productions and is committed to serving his artistic goals with passion, focus, and dedication. His poem ‘Se išeng dipelo mafiša’ reflects deeply on the process of aging and death and will comfort the heart of all who have lost an elder.
Kgobani Mohapi (Sesotho)
Kgobani Mohapi comes from the small eastern Free State town of Lindley. He has entered the AVBOB Poetry Competition every year since its inception to test his poetic skills against the best in the country and came second in the 2019 AVBOB Poetry Competition. His poem ‘Ke o entseng?’ is peppered with the questions that lovers ask themselves after a separation. He was inspired to write poetry by his Sesotho teacher, Mr NJ Malindi. Kgobani is also a novelist, with a Sesotho romance titled Lerato to his name.
Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong (Setswana)
Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong is an educator and a published author from the North West province with an enormous passion for the arts. He is an engaged member of the regional writers community, committed to sharing opportunities and information with fellow Setswana writers. His poems appear in Volume 4 of the AVBOB Poetry anthology, ‘I wish I’d said…’ He used the form of the Mosikaro, which uses the first letter of the first word of each line going downwards to spell out the word ‘Tsholofelo’, which means hope. Tsholofelo is both the title and the theme of his poem, which pays tribute to the health workers who battled the pandemic and the hope for a vaccine to defeat the virus. Molebatsi wrote this poem to heal from the pain of losing his mother.

Prisca Nkosi (Siswati)
Nomvula Prisca Nkosi started writing short stories and poems at a very young age. She calls Ermelo home, where she works at McDonald's. While Prisca prepares fast food, she has many deep thoughts. She decided to enter the AVBOB Poetry Competition to improve her writing skills and to give voice to her rich imagination. Her poem ‘Imihuzuko’ explores the scars that tell of life’s injuries. “Some people lose hope while others gain strength through their suffering,” says Prisca, “and I wanted to give voice to and share the experience inside me.” This is Prisca’s first poetry award.
Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba (Tshivenḓa)
Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba was born in Ha-Rabali village in Limpopo’s Nzhelele Valley. He attended Rabali Primary School and, later, Patrick Ramaano Mphephu Secondary School, where his love of poetry grew strong. He was inspired to enter the AVBOB Poetry Competition on the death of beloved family members. “When my sister died so very young, it was hard to believe I would never see her again,” he says of his winning poem ‘Maḓuvha a mudali’. This carefully crafted and formal work honours his sister’s life. The poet reminds the reader in a wise and gentle tone that we are all visitors on this earth, and encourages us to consider our legacy. Mashudu is married and currently unemployed.
Pretty Shiburi (Xitsonga)
Pretty Shiburi is a poet making powerful connections. Born and raised in Madobi village in the far northern part of South Africa and currently studying electrical engineering at Westcol TVET College in Krugersdorp, this is a poet who makes sparks fly! Her darkly funny poem ‘N’hwembe’ explores the idea of home and ownership by examining a pumpkin vine, which causes consternation in its wanderings into the neighbour’s yard. This playful metaphor demonstrates the poet’s love of her mother tongue and offers a wry glance at other wanderers.