Two 4X4 Mega World Landies pull in to a community called Mahenye – where the Save and Runde Rivers meet – adjacent to the Gonarezhou in South Eastern Zimbabwe, all part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Kids are playing soccer in an open piece of felt using old compressed plastic bags as a soccer ball. Every kid dreams of being a soccer star… The World Cup is coming to Africa…
As part of the Kingsley Holgate led Boundless Southern African Expedition, 4X4 Mega World Volunteers clear the area by hand, FIFA compliant markings are drawn out using white lime on the red earth.
Brand new goal posts with nets replace simple mopani poles, a gazebo goes up with plastic chairs for the community leaders. Banners flap in the breeze. The local Shangan Community can’t believe it. Now they have a community soccer field.
All is set for a Boundless Soccer Challenge. Kingsley Holgate and the rest of the expedition team arrive in a convoy of Landies. Its day 35 of the Boundless Southern African Expedition to link 9 Countries, 7 Transfrontier Conservation Areas, 2 Oceans, more than 30 Game and Nature Reserves – and more importantly to promote Nature Culture and Community to the areas in, and adjacent to, these Transfrontier Conservation Areas.
The expedition is keeping alive the Peace Parks Transfrontier Conservation vision of great men like Dr Anton Rupert, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands and Madiba himself. A vision of wildlife and people living in harmony across boundaries. Herewith the latest Dispatch from the expedition team.
The sun burns down. The Chief of the Manhenye Community, Community Leaders, Local Council representatives and The Minister of Environment arrive as the community gathers. The 2 competing teams, are aptly named “The Elephants and The Lions” – it’s in keeping with the conservation nature of the expedition.
The excitement grows as Johhny Clegg booms from a Land Rover sound system. Babu Cosa is the Shangaan speaking expedition member and a whiz kid at commenting. There are even some vuvuzellas. The Boundless Soccer Trophy is held aloft, the 2 captains shake hands, the referee and the lines men confer – BUT WHERE’S THE BALL?
“Look-up” says the commentator in Si Shangaan…. There is the clutter of rotor slapping the air. It’s a helicopter, the same one that was part of our expedition yesterday in which a bull elephant was collared allowing it to be tracked across the Transfrontier Conservation area.
“Aaaahhhh” roars the crowd as expedition member Mad Mike falls like a stone from the silver bird. The Garmap parachute opens, down he swoops like a like an aerobatic bateleur eagle, flying a Boundless Southern Africa banner… The crowd surges forward as Mad Mike places a soccer ball on the centre line – The whistle blows, we have a kick off…. – A rural World Cup for Conservation.
But its not just soccer…each community event also has an art competition (the art material have been sent in weeks ahead), today’s theme is Nature, Culture and Community with the emphasis on elephants (translated from Shangan Gonarezhou means “special place for elephant”)… The judges have a tough time, the art work is unbelievably good.
Each artist displays their work under the spreading branches of a giant Baobab Tree and all the artists receive prize packages, life saving mosquito nets, purifying drinking straws to avoid cholera, lap desks, learning materials together with Boundless Art certificates for 1st 2nd and 3rd these art pieces will go forward to a 9 country international competition in which the overall winner, with a teacher, will get to go on a holiday to Cape Town – “have any of you ever been to Cape Town?” shouts Babu over the PA system… The wide eyed kids shake their heads, most of them have never left the area…
The excited crowds race onto the field. Elephants 3, Lions 1. 4X4 Mega World chooses the Man of The match and the Boundless Soccer Trophy is paraded like a great prize. In the rural build up to 2010 the games must continue. The expedition hands over additional soccer balls, pumps, whistles, bibs and FIFA rules printed and mounted on a board.
“Viva Manhenye, down with Malaria, Down” shouts Babu as the team moves in to assist with the distribution of hundreds of long lasting insecticide treated world health recognized mosquito nets to pregnant mums and children under the age of 5. The distribution goes hand in hand with malaria prevention education. Questions and answers, demonstrations on how to use and care for the nets. The shocking statistic is that for every minute of every day and night 2 African babies die from the blood sucking bite of the Anopheles mosquito.
It takes 2 strong men to off load the heavy metal trommels from the top of the African Outback Landie roof racks, each box is filled with education books and a booklet on how to use these mobile libraries which have been packed by kids from Centurus Colleges
Behind the Land Rovers Gill Holgate (Mashozi) has lined up a group. It’s her Rite to Sight program to distribute spectacles to elderly poor sighted people.
The community days ends with more rich and colorful cultural performances. There’s an old African proverb that reads “a person without culture is like a zebra without stripes”.
The Tunza Group performs a delightful wildlife skit followed by a beautiful Boundless song urging the community to care for wildlife and care for Mama Africa.
4X4 Mega World we salute you. You are doing what you came to do – connecting Nature, Culture and Community. Making a difference, helping to ensure that there will be harmony between man and wild animals, helping to ensure that these Transfrontier Conservation Areas will remain for our grand children’s grand children and beyond.
Tomorrow we head for Crooks Corner, where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet, at the confluence of the Levuvu and The Limpopo Rivers. There, with an armed ranger watching out for crocs we will add another thimble full of water to the symbolic Calabash we are carrying across Africa. Dignitaries will endorse the Scroll of Peace and Goodwill for conservation and then we will follow the Limpopo to explore the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area and of course another Boundless Soccer Challenge and a Community Day helping to link Nature, Culture and Community.
We’ll keep you posted…