Changing lives — one bicycle at a time

LEPHALALE — South Africa’s largest coal company, Exxaro, handed over 26 mountain and Qhubeka bikes to Mabalane Seleka Technical School in Lephalale on Friday 14 September as part of their drive to make mountain bike riding accessible to disadvantaged communities.

Back FLTR: Adam Wieruszowski, Tlou Khutso, Thabiso Rengane, Ancle Mtalana,
Andisiwe Skeyi and Tshukudu Kabelo. Front: Marlize Kotze and Sipho Khumalo. All of the people on the picture, except for Marlize Kotze, are members of the Exxaro Mountain Bike Academy

The handover, which was attended by Rosemary Mthinumye: Exxaro Grootegeluk Specialist Community Development, Johan Wepener: General Manager Grootegeluk and Marlize Kotze: Mrs Africa Worldwide 2018 as well as Mrs Worldwide 1st Princess. This was the latest donation by Exxaro’s Grootegeluk Kids-on-Bikes Programme, which is aimed at encouraging mountain biking and developing talent for Exxaro’s Mountain Bike Academy.

The Exxaro Mountain Bike Academy provides riders from disadvantaged communities the opportunity to compete in prestigious races like the Absa Cape Epic.

Malusi Buthelezi, Exxaro’s Manager for Environmental Authorisations and Mineral Rights and a passionate cyclist, says the initiative was born when the mining group bought 20 bicycles for school children from disadvantaged backgrounds while providing maintenance, transport and accommodation.

“Exxaro wanted to make mountain biking competitive and accessible. The pilot – with Tielelo Secondary School – ran for three years during which two of our learners were nominated to represent the Limpopo province in the national Spur Series races.

“We’re excited to keep the ball rolling with phase 2 of our programme by partnering with a new school, Mabalane Seleka Technical School, next to our Grootegeluk Coal Mine.”

Buthelezi says that young cyclists who excel in the Kids-On-Bikes programme get the opportunity to join the Exxaro Mountain Bike Academy. They also receive the chance to compete nationally, as well as potentially be absorbed by professional teams and take their cycling career to the next level.

He points out that while not every rider is destined for the life of a professional cyclist, admission into the Academy provides members with a host of other opportunities to uplift themselves as well as their communities.

“Most of these kids never get the chance to study further than matric. However, through exposure to competitive cycling and their involvement in the Exxaro Mountain Bike Academy, they are able to access an individual development plan that sees Exxaro sponsoring these riders for tertiary degrees and diplomas,” says Buthelezi.

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