The Soweto Equestrian Centre in Rockville hosted a delegation of senior diplomats from the European Union on Friday 3rd February, led by Ambassador Marcus Cornaro.
The Equestrian Centre was established in 2007 by the legendary South African show jumper Mr Enos Mafokate. Mr Mafokate believed it was important to bring horse riding to the township, so that it was no longer seen as a sport for the privileged few, mainly white riders.
Mr Mafokate's business partner, Sthembiso Mhlongo, arranged the EU delegation's visit after meeting the Ambassador at a function recently. The purpose of the visit was the aquaint the diplomats with an aspect of Soweto which is less well known than the traditional tourism destinations of Vilakazi St and the Hector Pieterson Museum.
The visitors were treated to a demonstration of bowling, courtesy of the Randburg Bowl Club which has a partnership with the Centre, followed by a vaulting display in the main arena from the South African Vaulting Champions who were trained by Mr Mafokate and are based at the Centre. Later on some of them tested their equestrian skills on the very well behaved horses.
In his speech Ambassador Cornaro congratulated Mr Mafokate on his vision and determination to keep the Centre going in the face of many challenges. Mr Mafokate has great plans for the Centre, including an indoor arena, polo field and multi-purpose sports stadium, but these will require a significant cash injection from investors and government to make the Centre viable in the long term.
The City of Johannesburg was represented by officials of the Department of Community Development's sports and recreation section.
Also present was the Honorable Toby Chance MP, Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, whose Soweto West constituency includes the Equestrian Centre. In his speech Mr Chance thanked all present for arranging the occasion and helping put the Equestrian Centre on the map.
With more visits like this one planned, including from the Mayor of Johannesburg Cllr Herman Mashaba, the future looks bright for the Soweto Equestrian Centre.