Traditional home of the Royal Bafokeng
Phokeng and its surrounds in the Rustenburg Valley of South Africa’s North West Province is the home of the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), a people with a multi-faceted heritage and a reputation for being resourceful and enterprising. The Bafokeng have occupied this area since the 12th century with their most famous king (kgosi in Tswana), Kgosi Bafokeng Mokgatle, giving his subjects and their descendants security by organizing the community to buy up the territory they occupied in the 19th century. Although unknown at the time, this land happens to be situated over a valuable portion of the Bushveld Complex, the richest known reserve of platinum group metals and chrome on earth. Today, portions of RBN land are leased to some of the world’s largest mining companies and the income derived from the mining activities is used to uplift the community.
But the Bafokeng have no intention of resting on their achievements. On the contrary in the first decade of the 21st century, the 300 000-strong RBN, under the leadership of Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, has embarked on an ambitious programme – the Masterplan – to transform the living conditions, and hence the lives, of its people within the next 20 to 30 years. Diversifying the economy and upgrading and building infrastructure are essential components of this developmental mission, known as Vision 2020, which sees the Bafokeng communities becoming progressive, dynamic and thriving in the years to come.
And sport is set to play a key role in all of this.
The Bafokeng vision and plan – empowering people to help themselves
Royal Bafokeng Sports (RBS) was established as a subsidiary of RBN’s investment entity Royal Bafokeng Holdings in early 2007. Its goal is to establish ‘a vibrant, healthy and patriotic community transformed through sport towards 2020 and beyond’.
Sport has been selected for special attention because of the role it can play in:
- encouraging the youth to lead healthier lives, to be disciplined and to pursue excellence in all they do;
- building community pride; and
- creating jobs and developing skills.
All of these aspects tie in with RBN’s Vision 2020.
Less high profile but receiving just as much attention is the fostering of talent among children in the RBN. RBS has been tasked with unearthing this talent.
In 2007, together with the services of Samba Soccer, a globally recognised youth soccer development organisation, RBS started to design mass participation and development programmes for the Bafokeng school goers. Currently there are 10,000 children, from 6 to 18 years of age, taking part in the various mass participation programmes, of which 350 more talented children are receiving more intensive coaching through the development squads.
Six highly qualified and experienced coaches are based in Phokeng where they are spearheading these sporting development initiatives. In addition, 450 local coaches have received additional training in order to assist with the roll-out of these programmes.
A key objective is to develop locally talented individuals that will be able to qualify for soccer teams playing in the Premier Soccer League of South Africa within the next five years. One of the ways in which this will be achieved is by these individuals participating in soccer clinics run by visiting teams and coaches, as well as the opportunity to train with overseas teams. Plans for the region going forward include the establishment of 150 to 200 soccer teams across different age groups and the construction of 15 to 25 multi-purpose sports fields.
The sports drive in the RBN will create up to 750 sustainable jobs in the region and act as a further catalyst for small business development. But the benefits will not only be economic, sport will go a long way in making the Bafokeng people feel healthier and more confident as well as creating a greater sense of self-esteem.
Royal Bafokeng Stadium – in a class of its own
One of the venues for the FIFA World Cup 2010, the Royal Bafokeng Stadium is conveniently located, just two hours by road from Johannesburg and Pretoria. The region’s temperate, dry climate makes the facility an ideal choice for big matches and training sessions alike. A bonus is that the surrounding community is knowledgeable and passionate about soccer and visitors are received with warmth and interest.
Already an impressive arena, the stadium has been refurbished at considerable cost to ensure that it is in a class of its own by 2010. The upgraded stadium now boasts 43500 seats and 13 additional suites. Other features include a new roof, improved floodlighting and extra parking facilities. The pitch has also been replaced and access to the grandstand has been made easier with the erection of two new bridges.
A world of entertainment – on the doorstep
Visitors wanting to take time out from soccer will find entertainment in abundance on the doorstep of Phokeng.
Sun City, one of South Africa’s top resorts, has the three ‘g’s’: golf with two courses designed by Gary Player; game – the Pilanesberg National Park is in close proximity; and gambling with a casino in the complex. Other attractions include a theatre; a water park, the Valley of the Waves; and beautiful gardens.
But this is not all that the North West Province has to offer. For those who are keen on wildlife there is the Madikwe Game Reserve, which borders Botswana to the north. Like Pilanesberg it is malaria-free and in a transition zone between the bushveld and the thornveld ensuring a diversity of species.