Last year, Britain’s Princess Royal said she would one day visit the Soweto Equestrian Centre. This week, she kept her promise.
IT is not every day that a member of the British royal family pitches up in Soweto for a visit. But then, the Princess Royal is one to keep her promises.
The Princess meetsBritain's Princess Royal meets learners at the academyThe township’s first riding academy, the Soweto Equestrian Centre, had the rest of the city reeling with envy when Princess Anne of Britain paid a surprise visit on Monday.
She arrived in Joburg earlier on 16 April, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of her mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been on the throne for 60 years. The visit also marks the countdown for the last days to the London Olympics. The games start on 27 July – 100 days from today.
She began her three-day trip to the country with a visit to the St John’s Eye Clinic in Braamfontein, Johannesburg before proceeding to the Cotlands Turffontein Resource Centre and the Adelaide Tambo School for the Physically Challenged.
She made her final stop of the day at the Soweto Equestrian Centre, where she was greeted by the cheers of excited community members and schoolchildren. Flanked by the centre’s founder and director, Enos Mafokate, and her entourage, the princess spent some time interacting with the award-winning riders.
She asked how long they had been riding, and what sparked their love of horses. “I never thought she would come to see my centre. When I asked why she came, she said: ‘I came because you have started something which no one thought could happen in a black township,’” said a visibly excited Mafokate.
Riders at the academyRiders display their skills Princess Anne also handed ribbons to each rider during an award ceremony before leaving the centre.
Mafokate, who describes himself as a friend of the princess, first met her in 1982 when he was competing at the London Royal International Horse show. Unfortunately, one of her bodyguards prevented him from speaking directly to her.
He met the princess again in 2011 when he visited the offices of the British charity, World Horse Welfare, of which she is the patron. It was during this visit that the princess made a promise to visit his equestrian centre.
Princess Anne, who is an accomplished rider – she has won two silver and one gold medals at the Olympics – and is well known for her passion for horses, is the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Mofokate, who began his riding career as a stable hand, became the country’s first black show jumper in 1962. He opened the Soweto Equestrian Centre in 2007. It offers welfare training and supports working cart horses, and teaches riding to the people of Soweto.
Soweto stables’ open day
British charity helps Soweto horses
Sod turned for Soweto horse centre