Hours spent working together in the garden resulted in a unique friendship and the gift of a lifetime: a crowdfunding campaign to purchase a vehicle for a law graduate.

But this law graduate is not what you might expect of the usual university student.

Robert Maposa, 43, put himself through law school by gardening and doing odd jobs.

Now, as he completes night classes in preparation for taking the bar, his friend and employer’s son, Jonathan Smith, has created a campaign to raise funds to buy a vehicle for Maposa.

Smith started the BackaBuddy crowdfunding campaign when he realised the challenges Maposa faced in commuting to his night classes.

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“I travel to my classes after work by taxi. Sometimes the classes go late, until 22:00, and it becomes very difficult to get transport home,” explained Maposa.

The friendship between the two started around 15 years ago, when Smith would spend his afternoons with Maposa.

“Jonathan would spend time helping me in the garden. We became friends. He fell in love with me and I fell in love with him,” said Maposa.

Jonathan recalls the afternoons together, in which Maposa would teach him about the birds in the garden; knowledge he had gained from his time working on a game farm.


“He used to teach me about birds and how to make traps for mice. He would even help me fix my bicycle,” recalled Smith.

Maposa had left a job on the game farm due to the unreliable pay and moved on to employment in the construction and landscaping industry, before working as a gardener. He said: “It’s hard work. The gardens are very big and most of [the families] have dogs, which you have to clean up after. It’s not nice work.”

“I saw that, if I didn’t change my direction, life for my children will also be like this.”

This motivated Maposa to complete his matric in 2006, after which he enrolled for a LLB degree at UNISA.

He obtained his degree with distinction, a success he attributes to the support of his wife, Hitahlula.

Maposa said his two sons, Wonderful and Timothy, are also very proud of his achievements.

The resident of Mamelodi East in Pretoria said he aims to work in family law – something that was inspired by the community he lives in.

“In the community, you see there are a lot of people who don’t know the law, and there are women and children who are abused. I fell in love with law because it protects people,” he said.

“I want to show people what we can do when we stand up and do things for ourselves. I’m going to be an advocate in family law and maintain justice.”

Robert Maposa graduation (Image source: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/jonathan-smith)

Seeing Maposa’s dedication to improving his future, Smith felt he had to find a way to help.

He launched the crowdfunding campaign to surprise Maposa with a secondhand car to alleviate his transport challenges.

“Robert is trying to do something with his life. I thought I would start the crowdfunding campaign and see what happens. Even if only a little bit of money was raised, it could help him get a car,” said Smith.

“I’ve learned to appreciate his kind spirit … and I couldn’t be prouder of what he has achieved. I know, given the slightest chance, that he will be a major success.”

So far, the crowdfunding campaign has raised over R69 000.

“These donations mean a lot to me,” said Maposa. “I will be very happy if I can get a car. It will be one of my big challenges knocked down, just like getting my LLB.”

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