From the editor
2016 hasn’t been kind to South Africa, and it’s likely to get a lot worse, if one believes some of the predictions in this week’s cover story. It is no secret that organised business and National Treasury have been working non-stop to try and avert a credit ratings downgrade to junk, but without all parts of government, particularly the Presidency, pulling in the same direction, those attempts will only keep the wolves at bay for so long.
Two weeks ago, I took part in sani2c, a three-day mountain bike race that covers about 260km from Underberg to Scottburgh in KwaZulu-Natal. It was a reminder of what can be achieved in this country when all the moving parts are pulling in the same direction. I simply have never seen co-operation on such a scale between numerous rural communities, farmers, community organisations, schools, local authorities and major listed companies.
The result is a world-class event, the largest of its kind, which brings in millions for the direct beneficiaries of the race. Importantly, the money isn’t handed out as donations, but paid for services rendered – for example a rural community taking ownership of building and maintaining the single track crossing their piece of land.
The result has been substantial job creation in the run-up to and during the event, with numerous permanent jobs created and local businesses started thanks to the skills transfer that has taken place over the past 11 years. In 2015, R8.3m was paid to direct beneficiaries of the race; the economic impact on the region (including e.g. spending on accommodation, food, etc.) is estimated at more than R35m.
Not bad for an event that really started as a dream of Glen Haw, an avid sportsman and dairy farmer, in the late 1990s, and finally came to fruition in 2005 with 600 riders. (This year, 4 500 riders participated, and the event has been broken up to accommodate three consecutive starting days.)
For me, the hospitality and support from communities along the route, particularly in the spectacular Umkomaas valley, was undoubtedly the highlight of the race. As someone who would never cycle alone on the numerous tracks in and around Johannesburg, it is worth mentioning that my only safety concern on the route was related to keeping my collarbones intact.
The risk is that the whole race can go up in smoke if a single landowner pulls out, or a community protests on race day, or one rider gets violently robbed of a bicycle, as so often happens elsewhere in the country.
Our politicians would do well to ask Farmer Glen and his countless partners along the route how they keep it all together.