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Big wins

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Stay with this blog football dislikers as there’s plenty for everyone. But on a Saturday afternoon in mid-February what else would you expect me to do other than support my local football team? Local to me right now is Polokwane City, recently promoted to South Africa’s Premiership.

I bumped into the Peter Mokaba Stadium on an early morning walk, towering over parkland not far from my two-week residence, Rustic Rest Guesthouse. In 2010 it hosted Algeria 0 Slovenia 1 in England’s Group C and three other group matches.

Peter Mokaba Stadium Peter Mokaba Stadium (8)

Peter Mokaba Stadium; Eastbourne Borough man with vuvuzela


According to Wikipedia Peter Mokaba was a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle and a deputy minister in Nelson Mandela’s government. His entry additionally reveals much about South Africa’s awkward history of HIV denialism:

Mokaba was HIV positive, but refused treatment because he viewed pharmaceutical drugs as poisonous; he died in 2002 of AIDS-related pneumonia. According to Mokaba, anti-Aids (sic) drugs had no benefits “beyond profits for the pharmaceutical industry”; the fight against these companies, he said, should be waged with the same intensity as the struggle against apartheid. Privately, he assured supporters that the HIV virus and Aids (sic) were part of an “international Western plot” to decimate blacks and “regain colonial control” in Africa.

A local rumour shared with me is that his political enemies set him up with women known to be HIV positive.

Out in Capricorn’s clinics, my host and area manager Pepe set an ambitious but fruitful programme: fifteen primary health clinics in four days ahead of an office Friday, which allowed for a focus group. The FPD bakkie has crawled past donkeys, cows and goats – what else in Capricorn? – blocking thoroughfares and vibrated bum numbingly over 200km of sun-baked gravel roads in Blouberg, its blue mountains an impressive backdrop. We stopped at a shockingly basic village water supply where driver, prevention mentor and football buddy Chris suggested a photo having asked permission first.

In Lepelle Nkumpi staff bemoaned their old, barely fit for purpose clinic buildings that were in contrast with some of the newly built facilities I visited elsewhere. The operational manager in one had persuaded his community to follow democratic processes for improvement rather than burn down the municipality offices. The latter approach has been deployed elsewhere in the country in recent weeks and widely reported in media coverage of public anger at the ANC government’s failure to improve infrastructure and public services.

Water supply near My Darling (3) Maraba Clinic (2)

Village water supply, My Darling; Maraba Clinic consulting room

Returning to the beautiful game, Saturday’s match against the superstars of Orlando Pirates was crackingly entertaining. Tickets had to be purchased in advance at Checkers – think Asda – a palaver since the store was off-line on my first visit. For a top flight match, R40 (£2.18) is an undoubted bargain – that’s Asda prices – Eastbourne Borough in tier six of English football costs £12.00. Chris collected me an hour before kick-off for the short drive to the stadium.

It was more Notting Hill Carnival on Wembley Way than Priory Lane, Eastbourne: orange (City) contrasted with red and black (Pirates); African dancing, singing, swaying, vuvuzelas playing; the fever pitch of a joyous be-costumed football crowd… with one white face in it. Apartheid may have fallen but the white population of Polokwane is not drawn to its magnificent stadium on a perfect Saturday afternoon for football. As if to emphasise the challenge of increasing social mobility across races that remains for South Africa, the only other white people that I saw in the stadium were the managers of the two clubs… Not that the English game is in any position to blow its own vuvuzela with only two black managers in charge at the 92 top clubs.

Thrillingly the entertainment on the pitch matched that in the stands. Despite their big name pedigree Pirates were outplayed by the home side with your blogger out of his seat on more than one occasion: for Sicho Jembule’s twenty-seventh minute goal, two should’ve-been-scored one-on-ones, an overhead effort that went close and a couple of centimetre-wide free kicks as third from bottom City deservedly won one-nil. To avoid accusations of one-eyed reportage, Pirates fluffed a couple of good chances before the Polokwane winner.

Peter Mokaba Stadium (12) Polokwane Game Reserve (6)

Chris Makhanthisa at Polokwane City; Polokwane Game Reserve

Observing the racial divide at work, the public sector primary health clinics are staffed by and serve an almost exclusively black population. The only exception so far was in Sub-district Six of Pretoria/Tshwane, whose community includes a poorer white population and a single interview (out of forty-three) with a white nurse. It is South Africa’s black population that is disproportionately living in poverty and reliant upon government services.

The progress in HIV care that is driven by the highly motivated Professional Nurses in primary health clinics that I’ve been interviewing could equally have me leaping from my seat in appreciation. Reversing the HIV/AIDS denialism espoused by Peter Mokaba and some of his contemporaries, I’ve been told by several nurses that their progress under mentoring is winning the confidence of their communities. HIV testing is widely accepted; local people with HIV who once attended distant hospital clinics or who entrusted their care to traditional healers are increasingly happy to be receiving antiretroviral therapy in their local primary health clinics. That’s another big  win for the local teams.

With the stands of the Peter Mokaba Stadium visible above its acacia trees, Polokwane Game Reserve was my Sunday destination. A hot 21km hike on the White Rhino Trail included sightings of eland, steenbok, waterbuck, red hartebeest, nyala, a sable antelope a warthog, several ostrich and, saving the best till last, four giraffe in my final kilometre. Big game Saturday and Sunday. Impressive results at work and play.


Written by martinjones183

February 17, 2014 at 6:16 am

8 Responses

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  1. Hi Martin, Sounds exhausting – great vuvuzela by the way! Great to hear of the excellent work done by the nurses and in gradually gaining the trust of the local population, How is PMTCT – numbers of +ve PCRs? and how are the nurses managing ART in babies and children?
    safe travels, Candy

    Candy Duggan

    February 17, 2014 at 10:29 am

    • Hi Candy
      Thankyou for yours. PMTCT appears to be one of the South African HIV programme’s successes, genuinely making progress towards the ‘AIDS-free generation’. There is a fair amount of failure to test at eighteen months and mentors are working to improve this. However it’s rewarding work for the clinic nurses, seeing such positive outcomes from their interventions. Paradoxically the lack of infant cases is one reason for nurses failing to complete their NIMART logbooks.


      February 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm

  2. Hi Martin Glad to hear you enjoyed the football and great to hear of the good work being done
    Very good pictures and I am envious of you visiting the Game Reserve especially seeing four giraffe!!!


    February 17, 2014 at 1:56 pm

  3. That’s a long one! and glad to see the Borough shirt!

    Sue Cross

    February 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm

  4. Cannot promise the same wildlife on the Norfolk Coast (if it is still there) next summer. You will be glad to hear that the blog has now reached 14 North Terrace via Mark. I was somewhat surprised to be discussing you with my mum at lunch yesterday!


    February 18, 2014 at 7:05 am

  5. Fantastic, great to hear that things really are changing in some of these communities. Pleased to see that you’ve been able to enjoy a little exploring along with hard work; I’ve always wanted to meet a wild Giraffe!


    February 18, 2014 at 8:40 am

  6. Great read, Martin. Your enthusiasm floweth over, as ever.


    February 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

  7. Hi Martin . This is Jayne’s sister Sue in Umhlanga, KZN. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs its always interesting to hear visitors impressions of South Africa. You mentioned the monthly visits for ART I do hope you can work towards changing that. Our small childrens home Izimbali Zesizwe Child Centre which is in Geneva Unit, Amaoti. provides a safe and nuturing environment to ten orphans who where abandon and abused. Angela is the founder of the home, the home also feeds and provides additional tuition though an afternoon homework programme. At last we now have a hot and cold shower and two flushing toilets.Let me know it you have a chance to visit KZN on this visit or in the future.

    Sue Naylor

    March 3, 2014 at 1:27 am

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