The sudden and untimely death of Tony de Munnik this week has led to an outpouring of shock and sorrow which is a testament to the esteem in which he was held in the Jeppe and Kensington communities and in rugby circles in Johannesburg.
Tony matriculated from Jeppe High School for Boys in 1975 six years after his brother Neil. He was active in sport at the school although he wasn’t one of the top players in any of the activities he was part of. Instead, according to Kevin Jarvis, who was a classmate and life-long friend of his, he showed even in those early years a preference for support and organisation – things which would develop into a calling which saw him serve the game of rugby, in particular, all his life.
Tony was served on the School Governing Body at Jeppe High School for Boys in the early 2000s when his stepson, Tyrone de Saedeleer, was at the school and he was also an active member of the Rugby Patrons Association at that time.
He served on the Governing Body of Jeppe High School for Girls as Chairman from 2009 to 2012 while his daughter Paige attended the school. He was one of the founder donors of the Ruth First Memorial Trust and continued serving the school on the Jeppe Girls SGB Fund-Raising Sub Committee from 2013 until 2016.
He was president of the Jeppe Old Boys Association at one time and was instrumental in getting rugby up and running at the Jeppe Quondam Club after it had fallen away for a few years. That foray into club rugby was to grow into Tony becoming the champion of club rugby at the Golden Lions Rugby Union where he served as vice-president for 12 years.
Ex Golden Lions president, Kevin de Klerk said the following in a moving message published on the Suparugby Facebook page: “Tony was a Vice President at the Golden Lions Rugby Union for 12 years and during my tenure as President. He was part of a most successful administrative team that helped turn the Union around from a struggling outfit that scaled the heights of Currie cup and Super Rugby competitions over the last decade.
“He was responsible for the establishment of the Jabulani Trust that helped with development of a number of projects in previously disadvantaged areas. Tony always held the clubs in high esteem and tried very hard to help them wherever he could.”
All along, Jeppe High School for Boys remained close to Tony’s heart. Jeppe headmaster, Mr Dale Jackson said: “He was tireless in his enthusiasm for the school and his steadfast love for the black and white. He was perhaps best known for his dedication to and support of the rugby section, but he was also a vocal and committed member of various Old Boy committees over a number of years.”
Most recently, Tony showed great passion and enthusiasm for the Jeppe Easter Under-16 Rugby Festival. “Tony de Munnik’s love for Jeppe High School for Boys and especially for Jeppe Rugby was noticeable, just listening to him talk,” said Jeppe teacher Riaan van Blerk, the convener of the under-16 festival. “Because his passion for rugby was almost as great as his passion for Jeppe High School for Boys, Jeppe rugby and Tony became synonymous. His involvement in our u-16 Rugby Festival was something to behold, his passion was to make our festival one of the country’s best. Last year Tony was directly involved in the festival, because of his position at On-Target, our title partner. I personally will miss Tony as a friend and a confidant.”
That commitment was also recognised by Ms Dina Goncalves, headmistress of Jeppe High School for Girls. “We knew Mr de Munnik as an indefatigable Jeppe supporter who was deeply invested in the affairs of the school: on the academic side he was always so proud of the school’s academic achievements and phoned us at the beginning of each year to wish us well. He attended all our cultural evenings when Paige was performing on stage, and on the sports field he assisted some of our girls get into Touch Rugby. In the financial arena, he always had a new plan for how to help the school raise funds,” she said on the school’s Facebook page..
Tony was very involved in the community. He had extensive experience in Urban Management activities and Community affairs as the chair of the Ellis Park Development Company. He sat on the Joburg Business Forum Committee, the Joburg City Tourism Association management and was an executive member of the inner city, City Improvement District (CID) Forum.
He also served a chairperson of the I love Kensingston Association where he encouraged the residents of Kensington to contribute meaningfully to the creation of a plan to revitalise the suburb and develop a sense of pride and respect.
Mr Kevin Tait was headmaster of Jeppe High School for Boys in the years that Tony served in official capacities there. They remained close personal friends in the years that followed. “Tony was the eternal optimist. He saw opportunities everywhere and was incredibly creative in finding solutions to problems,” Mr Tait said. “He remained firmly in my corner in my role at the Jeppe Trust and in Ms Goncalves’ corner at the school. He would pop in here once a month on average, just to check that everything was going well.”
Tony de Munnik was a larger than life presence who is going to be deeply missed by many people.