Hay, don’t say nay — this was the pukka chukka
● Other polo tournaments might be just an excuse to party, but the African Polo Open eschews the rent-acrowd for a more swish set.
The continental horse-mounted team event was held last Sunday at the sprawling Rosefield Polo Club grounds in Centurion, Gauteng.
The event is the brainchild of Masedi and Kgomotso Molosiwa, who I meet moments after arriving.
“You’ll be glad to know we are serving canapés this year,” says Kgomotso, cheekily referring to my lament last year about the lack of welcome snacks.
On cue, waiters proffer trays of miniature tacos, veg tartlets and Namibian oysters as I make my way inside the stylish marquee.
That is where Masedi introduces me to the acting Nigerian high commissioner, Adamu Bako, who, sporting a baseball cap, is a tad underdressed for this most chic of outings.
Then it’s hello to a couple I’ve not seen in ages: businessman Moss Mashishi and his wife Tsholo.
Tsholo, who is finishing her second degree, tells me she will soon return to our TV screens, this time not as a newsreader but as an actress on an e.tv soapie.
Next I meet a man who can proudly claim to have turned down the Guptas: Isaac Shongwe of Letsema Consulting.
Letsema was infamously dropped by McKinsey as its BEE partner at Transnet in favour of Regiments and then Trillian, back in 2012. Isaac shakes his head as he recalls the strange turn of events.
“They tried to buy my company and so I made up a ridiculous amount and they still said ‘yes’. That’s when you know something is wrong,” said the businessman, there with his wife Khumo.
Sir, I’m sure justice Zondo would find your story fascinating …
Sitting down to lunch, I find myself in equally intriguing company: on my right is Lebogang Montjane, the head of the Independent Schools Association, who brought along his daughter Ramadimetja. Across from me is powerhouse couple Andile Mazwai, who gave up a lucrative career as a stockbroker to run the National Stokvel Association, and his wife, Mondo, a member of the Competition Tribunal.
As we tuck in to starters including springbok carpaccio, smoked salmon rostis and a yummy artichoke, quinoa and burrata cheese salad, we are joined by a man without whom the day’s match would not have happened.
That’s Kwame Awuah-Darko, who, as well as running Ghana’s biggest oil refinery, boasts a stable of about 200 polo ponies — including a few ridden by the South African and Nigerian teams competing on the day.
Kwame, there with his partner Delia Whigham, who is due to give birth to their first child next month, tells us his love affair with the sport started at an early age.
“I rode my first horse when I was three, and watched my first polo match when I was 11. I was immediately hooked,” he says as our mains, grilled fish and pulled lamb shoulder, are served.
And the match? In a thrilling joust, we beat our West African cousins six to four.