Two determined conservationists, Greg Vogt and Sara Agostini will set out to paddle 67 kilometres on Mandela Day on Wednesday to kickstart their project to restore the Shongweni dam reserve outside Hillcrest to its former glory.
The area has been the subject of a protracted land claim and has been abandoned by Msinisi Holdings that ran the reserve for many years.
“We are reviving the Shongweni Reserve as mandated by the Zwelibonvu community who were awarded the land claim in 2013, however they only received the property to operate on the 1st July 2018,” explained Voigt, who spearheads the organisation Conservation Guardians.
The dam has for many years been the home of Umzinyathi Canoe Club and has been a popular training base for paddlers in the Upper Highway area, and has played host to national marathon and sprint events as well as the last African Sprint Championships and Olympic Sprint qualifiers.
The future of the venue was in dire threat after the clubhouse was largely destroyed and sections of the site vandalised.
Vogt is adamant that with the local community supporting them they can rescue the reserve, starting with building the essential perimeter fencing.
“The fences that keep these animals safe have never been maintained and today the beautiful herd of giraffes, buffalo and the other animals are at risk and are exposed to various threats. That is our first task as custodians of the reserve,” said Vogt.
“We are challenging paddlers all over the world to make a donation of one unit of their local currency for every kilometres that Sara and I plan to paddle on Mandela Day,” explained Vogt.
“We haven’t done all that much training so it will be a real challenge for us, but there is such a passion in the local community to rescue this reserve that we have to start somewhere,” he said.
The duo will take on the 67 kilometre challenge from first light on Wednesday and are encouraging as many paddlers as possible to join them at Shongweni dam for the usual club time trial starting at 5:15pm when they will do the last eight kilometres of their paddle.
“The response has been amazing,’ said Vogt. “There are paddlers across the country that will be doing a paddle in support of this initiative on Wednesday at their local clubs, simply because they have a connection with Shongweni or understand its significance to South African canoeing.
“There are also paddlers abroad who will be paddling in support, and their donations in Euros or pounds will go a long way,” he added.
International platform for international donors: https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-rescue-shongweni
SA platform: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/shongweni67