Phokeng – a town that boasts excellence
Phokeng, the town of the Royal Bafokeng nation, is not the sleepy mining village you would expect. It is similar to a typical mixed township development, where there are a few modest homes mingling with the more elaborate ones.
The headquarters for the operations of the Bafokeng are in the Bafokeng Civic Centre, an impressive building that was designed by the king, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, who is an architect.
The centre also houses his offices, the tribal court, the supreme council (which is similar to a parliament where decisions are made and motions are debated) and the nation’s various development agencies.
WORLD CUP HANGOVER
As you enter the town of Phokeng on the R565 from Joburg, the mountains are not the only feature that stand out on the landscape.
On the left is the majestic building of the educational facility, Lebone College, and to the right is the 47 000-seater Royal Bafokeng Stadium, which hosted six 2010 World Cup matches.
Now the stadium is the home of PSL club Platinum Stars.
The CEO of the Royal Bafokeng Nation Development Trust, Obakeng Phetwe, says there was a great deal of infrastructure activity from 2008 to 2010.
After the World Cup, there were varying opinions about whether the World Cup expense was worth it, but Kgosana Rapetsana, who sits on the supreme council, says it was a good experience for the Bafokeng.
“We spent a lot of money around the 2010 World Cup because we wanted to expose our Bafokeng people to the world and we wanted our people to feel a part of the World Cup and meet different people from other parts of the world,” he says.
“There is no way you can attract people to the World Cup if you don’t spend a bit of money.
“We also benefited from that because Fifa put money into the infrastructure project and the legacy has improved.”
He says there were many road infrastructure projects and a hotel was also built.
The Royal Marang Hotel was the base of the England team in 2010. It is part of a wider sports campus that includes a high-performance centre and a training facility that is mostly used by Platinum Stars.
The hotel’s general manager, Brett Dungan, says: “After the World Cup, our job is to make sure the facility is used properly.” According to him, the health and wellness element is a good selling point for the hotel.
WHEN THE MINING STOPS
Dungan says tourism will continue even after the mines close. The hotel works with a number of bed and breakfast establishments and lodges in the area to create a tourism hub through the Royal Bafokeng Enterprise Development agency.
The official estimate of the number of years that platinum mining in the area will continue is 50, according to Royal Bafokeng Holdings chief executive Albertinah Kekana.
Education is critical in the nation’s plans to ensure the town is sustainable after mining operations come to an end.
Another big-ticket infrastructure item is the state-of-the-art Lebone College.
It is a R450 million project that accommodates 700 pupils from Grade R to matric.
To the outsider, it might seem a little strange to spend so much money on a private school for only a few in a community of 150 000 people.
George Harris, the founding principal of the school and CEO of the Royal Bafokeng Institute for Education and Human Development, says the vision was to have a school of excellence that would also feed into the other 41 schools in the area.
He says the school is also being used to train teachers, adding that more sustainable solutions are being sought for funding, as 60% of the pupils at the school are paid for by the Bafokeng on a sliding scale of needs.