What cycling for a purpose really means
HE riders of Team MTN Qhubeka drove down Hindley Street in Delft yesterday, past cycle lanes painted on the pavement that led to the entrance of Blikkiesdorp, the informal, yet formal settlement on the Cape Flats. It is a place of much controversy, called a “dumping ground” for the poor, a temporary relocation settlement as they were moved away from Cape Town ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Here, some of the best professional cyclists in the world got to see what the Qhubeka in their name stood for.
TIt’s a grey, dusty place, a R30million collection of one-room corrugated iron shacks that make up Tin Can Town. It’s a hard place to live, a hard place to grow up and even harder to grow food to eat. Yet, some manage to prise life from the dirt, growing plants and vegetables. Marius, who did not want to give his surname, has a lush patch on which spinach, cabbage, tomatoes and other plants grow. He uses these to feed his family. The other plants are taken back to the “treepeneurs” programme run from the Spier wine farm by Lesley Joemat, an employee of the farm. The programme is part of the Wildlands Conversation Trust, an NGO begun in KZN, that rewarded “treepeneurs” for growing saplings and trees from seeds, so they could be returned to the environment.
They swap the plants for vouchers for “food, clothing, agricultural goods, tools, and bicycles – even school and university fees”, says the literature.
It is the strong, yellow bicycles that MTN Qhubeka ride to raise money for in Europe. The more awareness they raise, the more money goes into the programme, the more the people of Blikkiesdorp get to make the daily struggle of their lives that little bit smoother. For some of the new foreign riders, the experience of Blikkiesdorp drove home to them exactly what they are riding for.
MTN Qhubeka are the only cycling team in the world to have a charity as part of their headline sponsor. Australia’s Matt Goss, the former winner of the Milan SanRemo, rides for the kid who needs a bike to fetch milk for his family from the shop up the road. American Tyler Farrar, Tour de France stage winner, rides for the mother who uses her bike to fetch water for her plants. Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tour de France stage winner, spent time talking to Marius about his garden and family. Wednesday, each of them were shown the reality of how the majority of South Africans live. It hit home. Hard. Wednesday’s afternoon presentation about how to raise more money for Qhubeka made more sense.
They are riding for a purpose. They are riding for the people of Tin Can Town, a place where nothing grows without a fight.