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Alex’s colourful Bra Mann passes on

ALEXANDRA – The colourful life of Bra Mann has come to an end following his death.

Death has robbed Alex of one of its sons and rich history of yesteryears of this once vibrant and colourful township full of the arts right up to the brim.

Bra Mann, as Jacob Arthur Matthews (90) was best known in the township, died on 15 October at Helen Joseph Hospital in Westdene from prostate cancer after being sickly for some time.

Born in 1930 at Lady Selbourne in Pretoria, he attended Holy Cross School before moving to Alex with his parents at age 21. Bra Mann quickly established himself in gangster life with the Msomis and Spoilers and has the scars from bullet wounds from conflicts to prove it.

He shared his life with Elsie Baloyi-Matthews who is now 70 whom he met in 1994 and married in 2002.

When the Matthews family arrived in Alex they settled at number 29 in 18th Avenue but when Bra Mann was ready to branch out from the family he moved to 15th Avenue in 1985. He then purchased his own stand and built a double-storey house at the corner of 4th Avenue and Rev Sam Buti Street where he spent all his adult life.

By this time, Bra Mann had established himself as a liquor trader after starting off selling takeaway beers from his house that he used as a ‘Spotong’ which was more of a shebeen. But soon he opened Bra Mann’s Tavern and Bottle Store.

He used to run his liquor trade while employed as a bus driver at Putco and was later promoted to a cashier. When he left the employ of Putco, Bra Mann added a taxi business to his portfolio and became a member of the Alexandra Randburg Midrand and Sandton Taxi Association. He left a sizeable fleet of taxis behind.

He was also instrumental in the formation of an organisation known as the Round Table which he and fellow founders used as a platform to groom young boys to grow up and become responsible men.

Bra Mann was also a member of the Alexandra Land and Property Owners Association (Alpoa), an organisation that is fighting for the restoration of land and property rights in the township. The title deeds of the properties in Alex were seized by the apartheid regime when it began a process of building hostels for migrant labour.

Bra Mann, who was buried on 22 October at Waterfall Cemetery in Midrand, leaves behind his wife, Elsie and many children, including those from his first marriage to Judy Ethel Matthews who passed away in 1982.

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