The Berg and Bush, a popular multi-stage mountain bike race during October in the Central Drakensberg, is helping spread the Qhubeka initiative’s message after its success on the world stage.
At the moment, the Qhubeka initiative is currently enjoying the international spotlight as team MTN-Qhubeka, Africa’s first ProContinental cycling team in the Tour de France, continues to shine.
Steve Cumming from the African based team won the 14 stage of the tour after Daniel Teklehaimanot donned the polka-dot jersey in stage six, the first African ever to do so. Teklehaimanot impressed again in stage 16 when the Qhubeka rider came in seventh.
The Qhubeka initiative will hope to gather more support when it is taken under the wing of such a well respected MTB race. Berg and Bush organiser Gary Green said that: “Hopefully this will encourage more people to get on board and purchase bikes for the thousands of rural people who have to walk great distances to work and school.”
“All the people who work on the route get a bicycle, lots of local workers are involved and benefit from this,” he said”
“We are also planning on handing bicycles to the top learners of the local schools around our farm to encourage these kids to study harder.”
The principle behind the programme is to give people a hand up, not a handout, and those who have made an effort to improve their local community or environment are rewarded with a bicycle. Children who perform well academically also qualify.
Green said he was not aware of any other mountain bike events that officially endorsed the initiative, although it was fitting for a cycle race to put people on bikes.
“We would be very happy if other events could do the same, we will certainly give it some thought for Joberg2c next year.
“Our event takes place in a very rural part of KwaZulu-Natal, where there is much poverty. These are the same people who make the Berg and Bush happen.
“Although many are employed just before and during the event, it only marginally improves their lifestyle, so we try to do more to make life easier for them.”
This year, he said their plan was to give bikes to those route builders who had worked hard to create and maintain the trails over the years.
“Many of them live along the route but have no access to public transport. The bikes will allow them to get to work and to the village on weekends to buy provisions and visit family and friends.”
Green said the race had bought a couple of bikes a few years ago and these had proved to be an instant hit.
“Bhekseni Kunene, who supervises and creates many of the Berg and Bush trails, has ridden a Qhubeka bike to work every day for the past few years.
“He is now a keen mountain biker himself and so we would like to support him in competing in various events.
“We also plan on sending him on a Qhubeka mechanic’s course, so he can start a sustainable business repairing bicycles in the area.”
Green said Berg and Bush participants had the option to make a voluntary donation to the fund when they entered the event.
“Every year we raise between R50,000 and R100,000. Some of this money will also be used to support five more locals who’ve begun racing in the local events.”