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The firefighter on a boat

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This canoeing champion had challenges paddling through life, but his talent caught the eye of those who helped change his circumstances.


For many rural communities, the river serves as a source of life-giving waters with multiple streams of functions. It is what locals turn to for the sustenance of their livestock, to keep clean, and for many children, a source of entertainment – for them to live with reckless abandon. It is through self-expression in this unrestrained environment that a young village boy acquired an affinity for canoeing – a sport that rarely makes its way to lesser-affluent communities.

Nzolo Nkosi, a 32-year-old born in rural Mkhambathini outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa, was introduced to the sport at the age of 12.

“I did canoeing from school when someone introduced it as a sport in the valley back home. The valley is called the Valley Of a 1,000 Hills.”

The valley hosts one of the country’s biggest canoeing events, the Dusi Canoe Marathon,  which is where it all started for him.

Nkosi never looked back and seized every opportunity to be inside a canoe, rowing back and forth the valleys of the capital of KZN, Pietermaritzburg. His passion, love and dedication earned him a spot in the South African junior national canoeing team at the age of 17, contending in his first international competition in Senegal. There, he managed to get himself two gold medals and two silver medals in 2005, just before he moved to Johannesburg. 

“I came to Johannesburg in 2006 when I was 18 to look for greener pastures. I was initially here to visit my friend, who also canoed. I lived with him and that’s when I decided that I am not going back to KwaZulu-Natal. This was because I couldn’t go to university, my parents were not working. It was clear to me that there was no way that I was going to study,” Nkosi says.

When he moved to Johannesburg, he battled at the beginning. It was never going to be easy in the City of Gold.

As he was already involved in the sport, he would frequently visit the Dabulamanzi Canoe Club at Emmarentia Dam, in the north of the city. He would borrow a boat to paddle around and people began to notice him and would ask about him. That’s how he bagged his first job as a gardener. One of the canoeists at the club, Jacques Theron, eventually gave Nkosi the job after enquiring about him. Theron told Nkosi he had to start somewhere to get somewhere and gave him a place to stay. However, he had to pay rent.

He left the friend’s house to start a life of his own in Johannesburg.

He worked hard to stay afloat.

“I was using the money that I earned to pay rent and put food on my table, that’s when I was pushing harder in my canoeing, making sure I win some cash at events. It was about R200 ($14) an event. Winning every weekend could tie me over for the month so I had to make sure I train and work hard to win and eat,” he says.

Nkosi was approached by another canoeist, Brad Fischer, this time, offering him a job as a driver. Thinking it would be easy, he started saving more from his canoe winnings for a driver’s licence. He received his license and the job was his.

“I chose Nkosi because of his enthusiasm, discipline, his drive and his concern for the younger guys and his team mates. He stood out,” says Fischer.

Nkosi recalls his first day on the job.

“The following morning, I went dressed in my nice clean clothes, they were not fancy. My job was to deliver documents to clients. I was given a few envelopes and a map book. It was the first time seeing a map book. I had six documents that day, I only delivered one and it took me the whole day because I couldn’t use that book. I had to study the book that night and later things got easier and I earned R20 ($1) an hour.”

That was more money and he still kept the garden job. He also trained at the Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club. At this point, he had three incomes, which wasn’t much combined but it was better than what he had initially.

With his savings, he went on to train as a basic ambulance assistant in 2007 after seeing that there were a lot of injuries in the sport.

In 2008, another canoeist approached him and offered him a job at a retail store; he quit within 10 months because his love for aquatic activities was diminishing.

Fortunately, he got an offer from Fischer to manage the canoe club in Soweto. The previous manager had left the watercourses for another job.

Due to the persistence of his employer encouraging him to forge his own path, Nkosi saw a fire-truck and pursued being a firefighter.

By this time, Nkosi had qualified to move to the senior category in his professional canoeing career.

“It was tougher there, but because of my hard work, I made the Gauteng team and eventually, the senior national team. We went to the African Championships in Ivory Coast in 2009, there I got two silver medals. By that time, I was already a coach of the Soweto team,” he says. 

The same year, he registered for basic training which was for four months; he had more money saved because of the multiple incomes. He then volunteered at the Rosebank firestation. Shortly, Nkosi was a full-time firefighter for the City Of Johannesburg.

“When I started working at the station as a full-time firefighter, I saw the club was going down and losing members. I thought to myself, ‘there’s something missing’. When I came to Johannesburg, I got help from a canoeist, my career started with these guys, the sport worked as a stepping stone for me to be a full-time firefighter,” he says.

“So on my off days, I would go and put my energy at the club and make a change in other people’s lives. Four days at work and four days with the club.

“I teach kids how to swim, how to canoe, and take them to racing, as well as, assist with school work, this is how I relax when I’m off work. I am giving back because this is the sport that changed my life and I want it to be a part of changing other people’s lives.”

Tinyiko Nahwayi is a mother of three children who are part of the club in Soweto. She is proud of her children, seeing their grades improving at school and participating in the sport.

“The kids are in the house, if not, they are at gym or at school. We also get food parcels for each child. I’d like to thank Nkosi.These kids are like this because of him. He has time for them, he can communicate with them and treats them the same. He always inspires the kids,” says Nahwayi.

Back when Nkosi started canoeing, he says KZN was the only team that had most black players compared to the rest of the teams in South Africa. Today, there is an increased number of black people who participate at a national level.

Nkosi says, internationally, the sport does not receive much support.

For a majority of black people, it is not easy self-funding the sport. The organization Canoeing South Africa covers a certain percentage but the individual has to cover the rest. That is why you find black people targeting mostly only the events taking place in South Africa, he says.

The Dusi Canoe Marathon, which runs for about 120kms from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, has three stages and has a grand prize of R40,000 ($2,913). That is one of the biggest prize monies won in South Africa. If one wants to prepare for and win the marathon, they will be spending more than the R40,000 to prepare. The funding goes towards buying the best equipment by those who can afford it.

A canoe costs about R16,000 to R30,000 ($1,165 to $2,185).

Besides canoeing, Nkosi is a runner because in the line of duty, his body needs to be fit, hence exercise is important. He also cycles for charity, raising funds for the underprivileged.  

The firefighting canoeist still competes and is studying fire technology.

“My goal is not to go and win a gold medal; with the silver medals I’m happy. The win that I want is the win that is won by someone I taught to swim and canoe; to see a young kid from an underprivileged background having a smile on his/her face, happily jumping and claiming that win, getting gold and finishing a race. Seeing them smile makes me happy, that’s good enough for me, it’s not about the money,” Nkosi says.

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Coca Cola South Africa Improves SME Role In Value Chain

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Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) launches an R20 million fund for small supplier development and procurement, annually, for the next five years.

This was announced by the Financial Director, Walter Leonhardt at Gallagher Convention Centre at the third annual Supplier Development Conference.

CCBS is the South African-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA).

Leonhardt said the purpose of this fund is to assist young upcoming black entrepreneurs in the Coca-Cola value chain.

“We are, today, launching the CCBSA supplier fund of access to funding. To address the issue of access to funding which most SMEs experience,” said Leonhardt.

This will enable the entrepreneurs’ procurement process to be easier.

“It is to help them buy equipment, fund working capital and to help them overcome something we have identified as a challenge for upcoming businesses, which is access to capital on quit lenient terms,” said Leonhardt.

Budding entrepreneurs can visit their website to find out how they can access the funds.

There were over 120 suppliers of CCBSA in attendance.

Managing director of CCBSA Velaphi Ratshefola said they spent R2.35 billion last year, supporting 567 black-owned suppliers, of whom, 265 were black female owned suppliers.  

“So for me, it is clear that this is working. We have helped create a very inclusive economy. We need to play our part and we need to ensure that only through an inclusive growing economy we can create a stable environment where businesses can flourish.

“If we do not have a stable environment, a stable economy, we will have a lot of disturbances which are never good for business,” said Ratshefola.                      

“So for all of us, we should not do it just for social reasons, we must do it for the success of businesses and imperative,” said Ratshefola. 

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Zimbabwe Central Bank Borrows $985 Million From African Banks

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Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank has borrowed $985 million from African banks to purchase fuel and other critical imports with current reserves covering imports for just four weeks, underscoring the severity of dollar shortages, governor John Mangudya said.

The southern African nation last month ditched a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars, merging them into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar.

Mangudya said the central bank borrowed $641 million from the African Export and Import Bank, $152 million from Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, and $25 million from Mozambique’s central bank, among others.

The loans, which would be repaid from future gold earnings, have a tenure of between three and five years and attract an interest of up to 6 percent above the Libor rate, Mangudya said.

Gold is Zimbabwe’s single biggest mineral export earner, accounting for a third of its $4.2 billion earnings last year after a record output, central bank data shows.

“These loans are well structured facilities contracted last year. They will be paid from future (gold) export receivables,” Mangudya told a parliamentary committee.

The central bank takes 45 percent of dollar sales from gold producers and half from other miners to fund imports like fuel and power and repay foreign loans.

But the miners only have 30 days to keep their dollar balances in local foreign currency accounts, after which they must sell them. The companies have asked the central bank to extend the period they may keep their dollars to 90 days, according to mining executives.

OVERDRAFT LIMIT

Unable to get funding from foreign lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank due to arrears of more than $2.4 billion, Zimbabwe has looked to financiers from the continent and local banks to shore up its budget.

The central bank chief said Zimbabwe had just $500 million in reserves, enough to purchase four weeks’ worth of imports.

Mangudya said government borrowing from the central bank reached $2.99 billion in December, about three times its permissible overdraft limit.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has promised to curb borrowing in 2019 under reforms to revive the southern African economy, after the budget deficit soared last year following a spike in spending ahead of elections.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that the local RTGS dollar, Zimbabwe’s new de facto currency, will be backed up with fiscal discipline and the government would allow it to fluctuate but would manage excessive volatility.

On the interbank forex market on Monday, one U.S. dollar fetched 2.5 RTGS dollars, the same rate as on Feb. 22 when the central bank sold some dollars to banks. That compares to a rate of 3.5 RTGS dollars per U.S. dollar on the black market. -Reuters

-MacDonald Dzirutwe

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Volvo To Limit Car Speeds In Bid For Zero Deaths

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Volvo Cars said on Monday it will introduce a 180 km per hour (112 mph) speed limiter on all new vehicles as the Swedish automaker seeks to burnish its safety credentials and meet a pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.

While Volvo, whose XC90 flagship SUV currently has a top speed of 212 km/h, has made progress on its so-called “Vision 2020” target of zero deaths or serious injuries, Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said it is unlikely to meet the goal without additional measures to address driver behavior.

“We’ve realized that to close the gap we have to focus more on the human factors,” Samuelsson said. Volvo did not elaborate on the data but said its passenger fatalities were already well below the industry average before the goal was announced in 2007.

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In addition to the speed cap, Volvo plans to deploy technology using cameras that monitor the driver’s state and attentiveness to prevent people driving while distracted or intoxicated, two other big factors in accidents, Samuelsson said.

The company is also looking at lower geo-fenced speed limits to slow cars around sensitive pedestrian areas such as schools, while seeking to “start a conversation” among automakers and regulators about how technology can be used to improve safety.

Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, announced the new speed limitation policy on the eve of the Geneva auto show, where its new Polestar performance electric-car brand is showcasing its second model, the Polestar 2.

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While Volvo buyers often choose the brand for its safety, Samuelsson conceded that the speed cap could be a turn-off for a few in markets such as Germany, where drivers routinely travel at 200 km/h or more on unrestricted autobahns.

“We cannot please everybody, but we think we will attract new customers,” the CEO said, recalling that the roll-out of three-point seat belts pioneered by Volvo in 1959 had initially been criticized by some as intrusive.

“I think Volvo customers in Germany will appreciate that we’re doing something about safety,” he said. -Reuters

– Laurence Frost; additional reporting by Esha Vaish

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