Cape Town gangsters training for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon or for a position in the Cape Philharmonic Community Orchestra might sound far-fetched, but Elana Van Zyl Meyer and Prof Jonathan Jansen believe that these interventions can prove game-changers in Cape Town’s violence-ridden communities.
Eminent educationist, Prof Jansen, speaking at the Cape Philharmonic Community Concert at the City Hall on Saturday evening, suggested that bringing music opportunities and benefits to people in these areas result in lasting change, while former South African track and road star athlete and race ambassador to the Cape Town Marathon, Van Zyl Meyer, believes that sport can play a vital role in promoting peace in challenging communities.
Former leading Kenyan athlete and friend of Van Zyl Meyer, Tegla Leroupe, has already steered a path in this direction in her home country under the auspices of her foundation. Her annual Peace Races across East Africa take place in areas in a constant state of violent tribal and economic warfare.
These races attract thousands of participants to the races and other peace events, but Leroupe insists that all “warriors” taking part in the races must lay down their weapons and arrive at the race site prepared to join those with whom they may be at war.
“Imagine if we could reach out to people who are drawn to gangs and drugs and challenge them to train for the Sanlam Peace 10km, or even the marathon,” Van Zyl Meyer enthused. “That could turn around lives and make a real difference to communities. Instead of fighting over gang turf, they could compete on the roads of the Cape Town Marathon!”
From the outset, the Cape Town Marathon was not just about a successful sporting event but a powerful vehicle to bring about positive change. “Of course, we are proud of our achievements in achieving gold status as an elite road marathon,” said Van Zyl Meyer. “But from the start it was about much more than that. We linked it directly to peace through the incorporation of the 10km Peace Run and other strong symbols of peace and this remains a key element of the event.”
For the third time this year, the Cape Town Marathon will host the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a flame-torch -bearing global relay seeking to inspire the creation of a more peaceful world. For the first time the relay will bring the Peace Torch to every country of the Southern Hemisphere, with the Cape Town Marathon remaining a key partner and supporter in this quest and carrying a peace message of particular importance to Cape Town at this time.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, which has won an array of international social and environmental awards, will again support the development of athletes through Endurocad, an academy for the development of high-performance endurance athletes chosen primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the Western Province Kids Athletics Development Programme.
“These young athletes are finding a new focus through running and learning life lessons, including health and wellness and the discipline of training,” explained Van Zyl Meyer. “The only time when these athletes are on the streets is when they are out training! Supporting these charities is an important part of the Cape Town Marathon’s quest to promote positive change.”