High profile sportsmen and artists have united South Africans and friends of South Africa around the world to participate in the #SolidarityWalk organised by the South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK.
The seemingly impossible distance challenge, to walk the length of South Africa twice, has been convincingly achieved. Starting in Cape Town early on Saturday 29th August, the start of a UK Bank Holiday weekend, global virtual walkers collectively covered the distance of 2,414 miles (3,885 km), following the N1 route all the way to Beitbridge on the Zimbabwe border, and back to Cape Town again by late Monday evening, with miles to spare.
This ambitious target whetted the appetite of Saffers from New Zealand to Canada, with participation on most continents. The challenge was achieved in the name of solidarity with South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to raise awareness and funds for the South African Solidarity Fund.
“It has been such an amazing experience to witness the unity of South Africans abroad, along with friends of the country, who joined us in the challenge. Our social media pages were lit up by families, dog walkers, runners, hikers, golfers, with several famous faces amongst them. Mark Richardson, GB Olympic Silver Medallist wholeheartedly supported the challenge, sharing his progress and motivating others to join on social media,” said Sharon Constançon, Chairman of the SA Chamber in the UK.
The much-loved former Leeds United captain and Bafana Bafana veteran Lucas Radebe, who walked in Johannesburg, commended those who took part saying, “It was humbling knowing that out there, all around the world, walkers aged from toddlers to an 89-year-old were showing unity with those affected by the pandemic.”
Acclaimed former Springbok rugby captain Francois Pienaar, who completed his miles in Cape Town, said, “The Solidarity Walk was a really inspiring way for people worldwide to show support for South Africa at this challenging time.”
Fellow Springbok legend Andre Snyman, who walked in the north of England with his family, together clocking up an impressive contribution of 120 miles, added, “I am so truly proud of how the global SA Nation has generated such camaraderie – together, remotely and collectively. It will be rewarding now, post the event, to see a greater number join those who walked, to sponsor or donate to help our nation recover from the pandemic.”
Emma Wade-Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, UK shared, “It was with a double sense of pride that we walked and ran throughout the weekend for the Solidarity Walk – to represent our home nation of the UK and to support the country we call home, South Africa, in its time of great need”.
‘Queen of Rock’ Karen Zoid praised the walk’s fundraising effort started in National Women’s month for the Solidarity Fund saying, “It’s brilliant to know the Solidarity Walk donations will help fund humanitarian efforts focused on women suffering gender-based violence and mental health issues.”
Fellow award-winning singer PJ Powers reflected that, “The whole concept of the Solidarity Walk has been fascinating to see South Africans, challenged and responding so positively. I am energised and proud.”
Sharon Constançon, who individually clocked up 45 miles over the three days, expressed her excitement watching the map as the walkers progressed northwards from Cape Town, reached the turning point at Beitbridge before quickly starting the return journey and racing back to Cape Town as the final figures were fed in by participants. “This has been a challenging campaign and has generated tremendous energy and team consolidation, so many of us have re-ignited lost friendships, made new friends and feel we have truly made a difference.”
Sharon commended the strategic, platinum and corporate Chamber member supporters of the challenge, the backbone of the SA Chamber, driving and supporting bi-lateral commercial initiatives. She welcomed businesses of any size to consider membership of the SA Chamber, to gain from and deliver support to the Chamber’s membership. “The Solidarity Walk has indeed shown us that anything is possible regardless of distance and that where there is unity, there is strength. We learn, we share, we succeed, we strive for goals and we make a difference – together.”
Lucas Radebe, who started the campaign with the words “Let’s all do it!” now states, “I am confident that those who missed the walk will support the international response to the crisis and participate in solidarity with those who have put in so much effort.”
Andre Snyman, quoting the Springboks who won the World Cup in 2019, stated that we are “Stronger Together.”
The SA Chamber’s due diligence included two robust panel discussions with various representatives of the Solidarity Fund which is a short term special purpose vehicle to speedily mobilise business to help the people of the nation. The Solidarity Fund openly shared their mandate, governance structure, decision making processes and its use of funds in overcoming the effects of the pandemic.
Donations for the Solidarity Walk fundraising appeal can still be made via the SA Chamber website. Sharon assures donors that “Every penny and every cent of your donations, with an optional Gift Aid uplift for UK taxpayers, will go directly to humanitarian aid, particularly focused on helping SA women in need.”