CITY OF Johannesburg Executive Mayor, Councillor Herman Mashaba finally got to enjoy the fruits of his labour when he played on the newly refurbished Soweto Country Club, in the 2019 Mayoral Charity Golf Day.
Hosting a 4-ball field of 80 invited participants on the Pimville course, the occasion also marked what was referred to as a ‘soft opening’ of the club which was still a few days away from being opened to the public.
With representatives of entities which made substantial financial contributions to the club’s new look such as Investec, in abundance, as well as the country’s golf sanctioning body, Sunshine Tour’s head honcho, Selwyn Nathan present – everything was all set for a day out on the 18-hole course, albeit on a blustery winter day!
Encouragingly, the event also took a ‘Buy Local’ intent to it, with players clad in Ernie Els T-shirts and caps – whilst a surfeit of caddies drawn from the surrounding community stood to make a good Friday’s payday out on the field, after a lengthy hiatus brought about by the golf course’s lengthy closure for development.
From a sizable fleet of carts, a new gym with an interior decorated with wallpaper of imagery of sporting stars such as late boxer, Arthur “Fighting Prince” Maisela, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods – the one recognizable country club in a formerly Black designated residential area, now looks the part, down to wooden benches made from some of the trees chopped down during the design layout and distance markers scattered throughout a course boasting two testing and curving par-5s!
Occurring on officially the penultimate day of winter, the day started out with a request by Director of Events Managements in the City of Johannesburg, Bongi Mokaba, for a moment of silence for late constructor, Dr Thandi Ndlovu – whose company was described as having contributed in the development of the club, and whose funeral was held on the day – and a welcome address by Mashaba.
Foremost expressing his gratitude to everybody who was involved in transforming the venue into how it now appears, the councillor, alluding to the malady of vandalism which has taken root in many Black communities, deadpanned, “we are not going to be the generation that destroys, we must be the generation that builds. And I really hope that two, three generations after us, can be the ones actually enjoying this great facility – right in the middle of Soweto!”
Speaking freely from inside the fairly furnished clubhouse, he continued, “I think for me, it’s been a great privilege to had really been part of this journey.” Acknowledging the involvement of Nathan, he offered, “Thank you Selwyn, as the City of Johannesburg, we are really proud to have you as the son of this city, as the son of this country, because very few human beings anywhere in the world, of your calibre, are not easily found.”
Also recognizing the role South African golfing legend, Gary Player played in the reconstruction of the club, Mashaba exulted, “unbelievable golf course that Gary has really developed, him and his team, we are really, really proud of their contribution – now we are playing right in the middle of Soweto, a real Gary Player course!”
Teasing competitors just before made their way to the golf course across the road, the politician dared, “Don’t blame me if I come out to be the overall winner because without any doubt, I’m going to shoot the lights out!” That drew raucous laughter around the packed room.
A project which took a less than two years to deliver, a key figure responsible for its manifestation, Selwyn Nathan, recalled that the refurbishment all started with the selling of a photograph (a replica of which presently hangs amongst the clubhouse’s décor). Suggesting that the club would contribute towards the enormous growth of the game around the Soweto community, Nathan thanked contributors and rounded off his speech by teasing that his ‘strong 4-ball imported team’ would be the target to beat in the charity play.
Soon after the showing of a then-and-now video of the SCC, everyone involved moved en masse to the golf course to thereat, tee-off from different pins.
“With all the politics in the city, do you have time to focus?” ventured an Investec executive who was in the 4-ball group with the host. “On what?” shot back the mayor? “Service delivery!” pressed the determined questioner. On and on went the banter whilst players manoeuvred through the first nine holes of the gust-riddled course with caddies, who were in for what would turn out to be their most financially rewarding shift, offering useful tips on how to conquer the layout.
With a media crew in tow on provided golf carts, a lunch break just after the lunchtime mark also offered players an opportunity to greet nonagenarian former Rivonia Treason Trialist, Isithwalandwe Andrew Mlangeni, stationed at a catering area adjacent to the first tee. The former Robben Island inmate – also a playing member of the Soweto Country Club – spotted some heavy strapping on his lower right leg, explaining his non-participation in the event. Asked how his health was keeping up, the erstwhile member of Parliament (who turned 94 in June) confidently responded that he was only a few months away from picking up a club once again!
Well-manicured all around with strategically positioned, white sand bunkers, a water obstacle and a fair amount of birdlife within its environs, the course, with most of its fairways yet to green, looks every bit worthy to be walked around upon on a weekly basis. On the day, a player achieved a nearest-to-the-pin feat and another, Mlangeni’s son, Sello, realized a longest-drive one (for which he was rewarded with an accolade at the evening’s prize-awarding ceremony).
A while after play had concluded in the late afternoon and players – which numbered a female roster including the mayor’s wife, Connie, former Banyana Banyana player, Portia Modise and professional golfer, Lejan Lewthwaite (who achieved a career first hole-in-one in the Ladies Joburg Open, on the same golf course, in May) – had showered and had a change of clothes, a pomp-filled prize-giving ceremony commenced in the clubhouse’s lounge, helmed by familiar face, the SABC’s Thomas Mlambo.
The television presenter given to easily doubling up with laughter, beamed regarding the transformation which he personally had witnessed, having four years back participated in a golf day in celebration of Gary Player’s 80th birthday, on the same (albeit then sorely in need of an overhaul) golf course. “What a tremendous place it has become!” Mlambo intimated that to be the common sentiment of participants who got to experience the course earlier on.
Pending the presentations, it was mentioned that last year’s event’s tally of R840 000 raised towards the SCC’s maintenance had been surpassed and more importantly for the foreseeable future, main funder, Investec committed to its continued support of its maintenance. As the evening’s festival mood picked up, probably no soul in attendance could had been more fulfilled than the Soweto Country Club’s public relations officer, Justice Matshaya, who mused regarding how the end product which lay around, had its genesis when he embarked on a fund-raising mission to Sun City to request for funding geared towards the refurbishment of the establishment from Investec.
Concluding, he pleaded, “What is now remaining, is for all of us to respect the golf course!”
To top the moment for the host club, a trio of its very members (cheekily going by the curious name, Coffin Dodgers, because of comprising of pensioners who keep themselves busy by playing golf and thereby running away from the dreaded coffin) came up trumps by chalking up the forecast 86 points! The realisation there and then dawned that it was nothing short of astonishing that the trio of PJ Xaba, Charles Mavi and Muzi Mzimela, managed to pull off a hatchet job against much younger competitors!
Mlangeni senior was presented with tokens of appreciation and was surrounded by the beaming duo of Mashaba and Nathan whilst photographers snapped and flashed away the moment. And on the evening, an all-female music band regaled guests with requisite sounds whilst waiters worked the round tables attending to the needs of occupants!
Image Jacob MAWELA( 4-Ball winning team of the 2019 Mayoral Charity Golf Day with Councilor Herman Mashaba, Sunshine Tour’s Selwyn Nathan, MMC Dr Ntombi Khumalo and Investec’s Robin Magid, and others held at the refurbished Soweto Country Club, Pimville- Soweto).