From the moment the fairly young and innocent-looking Uazuva Mieze arrived in the city of bright lights (Windhoek), she wasted little time burning the midnight oil to transform the ladies’ game, showing glimpses of greatness with some jaw-dropping displays on the netball courts. Famously going by the name of ‘Zuzu’ amongst her vast circle of close friends, acquaintances and adoring teammates, the accurate goal attacker-cum-tricky-wing-attacker announced her arrival with breath-taking performances on the netball courts that left many in absolute awe. Zuzu started her amazing netball journey at the predominantly Afrikaans-speaking Tsumeb Afrikaans Secondary School in the vastly-populated Oshikoto region. However, it was not all smooth-sailing for the Otjiwarongo-born lass, whose gorgeous looks can be easily mistaken for that of a Hollywood supermodel. Forever joyful, the much-adored pretty-face teenage lass bravely defied tradition. Zuzu courageously encroached on what was then systematically tailored to be a sacred sporting discipline strictly reserved for the self-proclaimed elite citizens, notably at school level. New Era Sport caught up with the well-spoken Madame Zuzu, as she reminisces her incredible on-court exploits in full detail.
Born Uazuva Mieze in the laid-back mountainous northern town of Otjiwarongo on 7 April 1991, the eldest daughter of a strict disciplinarian schoolteacher old lady, Uazuva, who goes by the shortened name of ‘Zuzu’, was a bird of passage during her infant years, hopping from one town to the other with her roaming “Onnie” mom.
She spent a significant chunk of her formative years in the Okamatapati village, where she started her elementary school before relocating to Grootfontein to continue her elementary school. However, her old lady developed itchy feet again, only to resurface in Tsumeb.
It was indeed in Tsumeb where young Zuzu was exposed to playing netball in organised structures after she was enrolled at the posh Tsumeb Afrikaans Secondary School. The athletically-built beauty of decent height and slender frame was slotted in the goal-attacking position. She acquainted herself fairly well with the predominantly sporting discipline for learners of affluent parents.
“We were not really rich, but my old lady (mother), being a salted educator, always reminded us about the values of life, respect towards fellow human beings, and to treat all people equally,” recalls the well-spoken Zuzu, who speaks fluent high-level “suiwer” (pure) Afrikaans.
An academic par excellence, the pretty-faced young madam was not only an outstanding performer in the classroom, but she also excelled on the netball courts, rattling the baskets with a great measure of aplomb.
Zuzu’s near-faultless performances during the hotly-contested regional inter-schools’ tourneys did not go unnoticed. She was duly selected to represent the Oshikoto regional junior netball team, subsequently carving herself a place in the national youth team which toured South Africa for a series of matches in the South African Provincial Inter-Schools Tournament in Germiston, south of Johannesburg, in South Africa in 2015.
In the interim, Zuzu teamed up with highly-gifted young basket rattlers in the shape of Muuaa Tjipetekera, Menethe Muvangua and a few others to represent their traditional home village Otjinene in the popular “Reservaat” unofficial ethnic tournaments. She also represented the All Stars Netball Invitational side.
Like many other young school-leavers from outlying towns, young Zuzu was obligated to bid farewell to her adopted town (Tsumeb) upon completion of her studies. Her next stop was Windhoek in search of pastures green. The netball-crazy young madame joined forces with ambitious Khomasdal outfit Civics and as they say, the rest is history.
Zuzu found herself in the good company of a galaxy of stars in the Civilian stable, amongst them Namibia’s internationally-acclaimed netballer Jatjinda ‘Toetsie’ Kambatuku-Tjihero, Menethe Muvangua, Uauaa Tjituka and Wency Katjakatako, under the shrewd stewardship of local netball guru Anita Ndjarionguru.
Her arrival at the star-studded Civilians coincided with the team’s transformation from serial league pretenders to serious title contenders. The maroon, blue and white strip outfit hit the ground running with their youthful soldiers, dominating the highly-competitive Khomas Netball League, culminating in an abrupt end to the longstanding dominance of the trident of United, Black Africa and Wanderers, in that sequence.
The Civilians claimed back-to-back league titles with the cat-footed Zuzu effortlessly pulling the strings in the firing line alongside her equally dangerous shooting partner Toetsie, rattling the baskets as if the art of goal-scoring was going out of fashion.
Despite occupying the less-glamorous team role of goal attacker, Zuzu’s statistics in the goal-scoring conversions left many a seasoned goalscorer green with envy. Sadly, the Civilians’ fairytale run came to an abrupt end when the club’s chief financial backer, Austrian migrant Helmuth Scharnowsly, retreated to his native land, leaving the club in financial disarray.
The netball section was obligated to close shop, with some of the leading playing personnel resolving to pursue other ventures, whilst some of her celebrated teammates tied the knot to start families. Nonetheless, Zuzu was not to be discouraged by the sudden twist of events and joined cross-town rivals Wanderers, touring the mother city (Cape Town) with the “White Mares”.
“Yeah, it was easier for me to slot in with my new teammates because we were all coming from the same background, having spent my formative years in a predominantly Afrikaans-speaking school in Tsumeb. Truth be told, it was very easy for me to adjust to the culture, and the good thing about white athletes is their amazing sportsmanship; there’s no bickering and blame game whenever the team loses. They accept defeat in great spirit.”
During her marathon netball career, Zuzu won several top accolades locally and internationally, which include coveted multiple league titles, in addition to the Pro-Champs Inter-Provincial Tournament in Johannesburg; certainly no mean feat.
Although she boasts a spotless résumé during her marathon journey in the ladies’ game, the open-minded and strictly family-orientated articulate, straight-spoken Zuzu could not resist a rather uncool, slightly hard-hitting parting shot in the direction of national selectors.
“There’s a nasty fragrance of favouritism when it comes to team selection. Such tendencies have the potential to kill the spirit of talented players, which ultimately leads to them losing interest in the game because of systematic discrimination and prejudice. Players should be selected solely on merit and current form, and not on club or social attachment.
“Nonetheless, I have no regrets about playing the game, as I have, in the process, made lots of friends with people from all walks of life. I’ve also managed to learn a lot of valuable life skills from some of my teammates. It was indeed a journey well-travelled,” said the articulate beauty with a shy smile chalked on her spotless pretty face and white teeth that can only be found in toothpaste advertisements.
Though she is kind of semi-retired from playing competitive league netball, the single mother of a pair of cute “Pikinini” boys – Inata Perez (7) and Maatjija Gift (3) – Zuzu still squeezes in time to watch a few odd games whenever time permits from her hectic errands.