Bonga Ngqobane (25) started the first ever cycling club in Khayelitsha, in 2014, Bonga.Org Cycling Academy. In the past three years, Bonga has managed to get 150 young people to take part in their cycling events. “It’s an accomplishment for me because I get young people to follow their passion and believe their dreams can come true if they have the motivation to drive it to completion,” says Bonga.
In 2014, Bonga competed in the Absa Cape Epic, one of the world’s biggest mountain-bike cycling races. He completed the race of 1200 cyclists in the 198th position, and is now a professional cyclist. A private educational company called the Answer Series Study Guide has been funding his career since 2011. The company has also supported Bonga’s cycling academy by donating 10 mountain bikes and helmets towards his club.
“I wanted to give the youth more sport opportunities”
“I started this club because I wanted to give the youth more sport opportunities. Not all the children are interested in soccer or other popular sports, and because there aren’t a lot of choices, they end up not doing any sport,” says Bonga. He currently runs the club with two of his friends, Lubabalo Bongweni (24) and Khanyiso Bongweni (26) in his parents’ garage. He can’t yet afford to rent or buy premises.
The garage is small, so it’s cramped that the narrow desks sit closely against one another. When I pay Bonga a visit, the bikes are in the right corner of the garage, tightly packed that there’s barely enough room for the learners to sit.
The Bonga Cycling Academy members train for two hours during the week, and four on weekends on routes around Khayelitsha. The club also has an entrepreneurial programme where young people are given personal development education and skills transfer. On Mondays, they meet at the garage for leadership skills, life skills and career guidance classes.
“They told me cycling was a white sport”
Bonga’s parents were supportive from the start, but some people in his ‘hood threw discouraging remarks. They would say things like, “Cycling is a white [people] sport,” and that Bonga was wasting his time because cycling wouldn’t take him anywhere. “They saw my commitment, dedication and passion towards making a change in the lives of youth in Khayelitsha and eventually came on board. They even donated some money towards the club,” he says.
Bonga’s vision for his team and his club is to set up a cycling league for schools, not just in Khayelitsha, but other townships, too. They would like to branch out to disadvantaged townships in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the rest of South Africa.
Photography by Onele Liwani