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IN the early morning fog of a chilly Sunday, masses of walkers lined the streets of Protea North in Soweto on a mission to complete a 7km fun walk for health on 24 June.

Leading the walk were the members of the mayoral committee for health and social development, Nonceba Molwele, and for transport, Rehana Moosajee, as well as Bongiwe Ngema-Zuma, wife of President Jacob Zuma; the City manager, Trevor Fowler, and the City chief operating officer, Gerald Dumas.

They set off from Elmond Molele Park, went down Kunene Street and around the neighbourhood, via extension two, and passed the police station before heading back to the starting point.

It started on a very slow pace, but that was not for long: participants walked faster as they tried to keep warm. Half-way through the walk, Moosajee had proved to be the fastest walker among the dignitaries. She was followed by Molwele and Ngema-Zuma, who walked together for the duration.

Water point
At the first water point, about four kilometres from the start, several walkers stopped to take a breather. It took the first group, consisting of youngsters, approximately 25 minutes to cross the finish line; the older crowd finished between 10 and 20 minutes later.

After a long walk, at least for some, Molwele congratulated participants and thanked them for taking the first step to a healthy lifestyle. “I know that tomorrow some [of you] will wake up with stiff or strained muscles … I hope you do not give up participating in other walks.”

63-year-old John Moroka receives a medal for taking part in the walk63-year-old John Moroka receives a medal  (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)She encouraged young people to participate in such healthy activities. “Maybe amongst us today we might get a winner for the Comrades Marathon in future.” The initiative was in line with the City’s Growth and Development Strategy, Joburg 2040, which strove to create a substantially enhanced quality of life for all.

Also along to encourage healthy living was Ngema-Zuma, who is an ambassador for diabetes. She urged people to plant vegetable gardens in their backyards. “You do not need to be rich to eat healthily. Vegetables like carrots and spinach are very easy to grow.”

Ngema-Zuma, who is not a diabetic although she has a family history of diabetes, told people who had the disease that it was manageable. “It depends on your lifestyle. Exercising and eating healthily is all it takes to defeat diabetes.”

Participants who showed the most passion on the day where awarded. Among them was 60-year-old John Moroka from Dobsonville, who received a gold medal for showing the character of a true sportsman. Moroka was in the first group to cross the finish line.

A medal was also given to 82-year-old Agnes Ngcobo, who rolled down the road in her wheelchair. Even though she crossed the finish line a little bit late, she was recognised for her courage.

In the afternoon, people visited the testing stalls that were set up at the park. They were tested for a variety of illnesses, including blood pressure, diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV. Health practitioners were on hand to educate residents about living healthily and managing some of the diseases.

After all the activities had been completed, delegates, accompanied by the local councillor, visited two impoverished families to find a way to help them. First to be visited was the family of 60-year-old Hilda Netshiandi, where 13 family members live in a three-roomed house. None of the family is employed; they depend on child support grants for survival.

From the Netshiandi family, the group visited the family of 45-year-old Jacobeth Mantoro, which lives in a backyard shack with no electricity or ablution facilities. Living with her are her son, who is in Grade 1, and her daughter, Puleng, who is in Grade 12.

Mantoro is unemployed and relies on piece jobs to make ends meet. Despite the harsh living conditions, Puleng is determined to finish her matric and pursue a career in nursing. She did not do well in her latest results, but aims to improve in the next term. “Things are difficult because sometimes I do not have light to study at night, as we depend on candles for light.”

Molwele motivated Puleng to pass her matric with good marks. “There are bursaries that we offer for nurses every year at the City, so the future of this family lies in your hands. Pass well and we will talk again next year.”

Fowler also promised to ensure that City officials followed up on both cases as a matter of urgency.

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