Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Zuma’s inaugural dream becomes a reality

The last time I appeared in Protea Glen, Soweto, it was in court as a criminal attorney defending a man charged with murdering his fiancee. On that occasion hundreds of demonstrators harassed both the client and I as we attempted to seek justice from the magistrate rather than a mob. It turned out to be one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.

Today I was to experience the exact opposite in what can only be described as a ride on an emotional roller-coaster where even the downswings were incredibly uplifting.

It was the culmination of the efforts of Blue Label Telecoms, South African Rugby Legends Association, the Gauteng government, Lucas Radebe and the Protea Glen Community Forum in putting together what is known as a Sustainable Legacy Park (SLP).

This is the first of 400 of these SLPs whose role in uplifting communities, bridging gaps between the police and the people they serve, rescuing street children, reducing crime, finding sportsmen and women, providing new jobs and too many other benefits to mention here, cannot be underestimated. The turnout by the sports fraternity across all disciplines and codes testified to the fact that they recognised how important these structures are to the future of this country.

How each SLP will work is as follows:

  • Every day from 07h00 to 13h00 the fields will be used by school kids;
  • 13h00 to 18h00 will be for school league games;

  • 18h00 to 22h00 for corporate games (which will fund the SLP);

  • After 22h00 the police will find street kids, feed them, play sport, educate them.
  • This covers many different sports where coaching will be provided. Sarla has already coached 60 000 underprivileged children.

    While Protea Glen is up, there are three others currently being built elsewhere in the country.

    In the case of Soweto, the benefits are very much perceived by the community. Superintendent Ramahuna (provincial office) said that it would take kids off the streets, give them role models like the Springboks and show them alternatives for the future. Bonga Ntuli from Extension 12, Soweto, said the kids now had a place to practice and urged more corporates to get involved. Inspectors Holt and Dreyer from POP Johannesburg said it would keep the kids active rather than bored at home, which led to other things. This would reduce crime.

    The sports fraternity were just as enthusiastic. Percy Montgomery said it was a great lift for kids who don’t have facilities, Hugh Bladen was of the same view and pointed to the quality and skills coaching being planned.

    Odwa Ndungane — just back from training — said that places like this offered great motivation for kids, which was seconded by Bryan Habana. Lucas Radebe said it was a great facility for Soweto while Bruce Fordyce said it was a tribute to everyone involved except the Italians. Pierre Spies felt it was great exposure and a wonderful gesture.

    It all comes down to a partnership of the kind envisaged by President Jacob Zuma in his inaugural speech:

    The Gauteng government and Protea Glen Community Forum in partnership with Sarla, Blue Label Telecoms and Radebe.

    In this instance special mention has to be made of the tireless efforts of four men and the gracious donation of another.

    The property itself was donated by Dr Alf Levine but for which it would have been near impossible.

    That done Sarla president Gavin Varejes and CEO John Allan were thanked by almost every person there. Their incredible work not only on this SLP but the entire project is what is turning the dreams of a generation into a reality. Not for nothing is Varejes known as the Legend of the Legends. So too Allan who takes these projects on as if his very life depended on it. Kim Jackson his incredible assistant looked as if she had lost five years on her life running around organising the event.

    Brett and Mark Levy of Blue Label Telecoms who were prepared to support the vision of Sarla and the dreams of the people of Protea Glen are pioneers in showing that the partnership works and the beneficiaries are many. They deserve enormous credit for taking on what was merely a concept when they bought into it. Those that follow will have their pioneer spirit to call upon in the safer passage ahead.

    The kids?

    They loved their new facilities, the gifts they received from the sponsors and best of all meeting so many of their heroes.

    South Africa has witnessed the birth of a dream and it really is that good.