When you drive into the Soweto Equestrian Centre, you instantly realise that there is something special about the place. The loud shrieks of children laughing and playing fill the air and the smell of manure is hits the nostrils, transporting you to farmlands.
Located next to the Elkah Stadium in Rockville, the Soweto Equestrian Centre is a place where children are exposed to the elite world of horse riding.
The centre specialises in vaulting and show jumping. It also provides “first aid” to Soweto’s cart horses and offers horse riding classes to disabled children.
For those who are not keen on horses the centre also has a thriving bowling club.
A couple of days ago, the City of Johannesburg’s Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development, Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba, paid the centre a visit, which coincided with the sending-off celebration for the centre’s vaulting team.
The team will be representing Gauteng at the Vaulting Championship in Durban.
MMC Sifumba was impressed by the spirit and dedication showed by the children. She commented that “the Soweto Equestrian Centre is an example of what is possible with determination and hard work, and should be considered a treasure by the community”.
Cllr Sifumba further said equestrian is a niche sport that requires funding and therefore the community’s involvement and donations to the centre are invaluable.
The centre was founded by Enos Mafokate, the first black show jumping champion. When you see Mafokate’s interaction with horses, it is clear to see why he is known as “morena wa di pere” (lord of the horses). His effortless control of the majestic animals is an impressive sight.
Mafokate has dedicated his life to ensuring the welfare of children and horses. The centre is located in the heart of Soweto where young people are exposed to poverty, drugs and abuse. The centre is a haven where children learn discipline and patients through vaulting and show jumping. The children also learn team discipline and focus through bowling.
The Soweto Equestrian Centre is a non-profit organisation and is run solely through Mafokate’s pension and donations from the public. It is in need of horse feed, horse riding equipment and food for the many children who come to the centre.
For some of the children, the food provided at the equestrian centre is the only meal they will get for the day.
Despite its many challenges, the Soweto Equestrian Centre is a place of champions. In 2016 the centre won first prize at the South African Championship held in Cape Town. Mafokate’s hope is that they will not have the same challenges that they experienced last year when attending the championship in Cape Town. Last year the team had to sleep in their bus due to a lack of funds. He pleaded for the community to donate to this worthy cause.
The hope is that the country’s future vaulting, high jump and bowling champions will come from the Soweto Equestrian Centre.
MMC Sifumba said the City of Johannesburg’s Department of Community Development is committed to supporting niche sports such as equestrian. She added that as a result of budget constraints, the City role will not be big.
“The involvement and donations by the community are critical in ensuring that the Soweto Equestrian Centre stays open. The work done by Mafokate and his team is highly commendable and it is everyone’s duty that lives in the City of Johannesburg to safeguard its work,” said MMC Sifumba.