It all started when Durban-based journalist Fred Kockott completed all eight mile races at the recent Aquellé Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal in aid of marine conservation.
After crossing the finish line of the eighth event, Kockott accepted a challenge to swim a 22km stretch of the Wild Coast earmarked for heavy minerals mining by the Australian outfit Mineral Commodities Resources.
Xolobeni’s sand dunes contain titanium and other heavy minerals valued at R2.7billion.
The mining proposal has divided people in the local community, many of whom believe that sustainable socio-economic development would be better achieved by eco-tourism ventures.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled last November that before any industrial activity could start, the community must give free, prior and informed consent.
The 8 Mile Club, which has raised more than R12million since 2004 for various charities, including the WildTrust, the Childhood Cancer Association and the NSRI, has backed Kockott’s plan to raise funds for eco-tourism in the area and associated marine conservation initiatives.
Open water veterans Tony Sellmeyer and Andrew Chin, who between them have close to 90 Robben Island crossings, are now joining The Wild Swim alongside ice swimmers Mervyn Bremner and Marcelle Webber, who recently returned from the international ice swimming champs in Russia with three gold medals and a silver.
The founder of the 8 Mile Club, Stan Kozlowski, Cape Town journalist Craig Bishop, Eastern Cape journalist Mike Loewe and former East Coast radio DJ Abigail Ray are also taking part.
Sellmeyer recently swam a section of the English Channel with Camps Bay-based international environmental activist Lewis Pugh to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution.
“That swim had good results. A lot of firms are now changing their policy on plastic,” said Sellmeyer.
Kockott, the founding director of the environmental journalism training agency Roving Reporters, said it was no coincidence that The Wild Swim coincided with the 25th anniversary of Freedom Day on April 27. “Since 1994, there has been a lot of progress countrywide, but in Pondoland people have been caught up in this bitter dispute over mining for more than a decade without any meaningful development taking place.”
In supporting The Wild Swim, several families living in the area earmarked for heavy minerals mining are opening their homes to the wild swimmers and safety crew.
Read more about The Wild Swim at www.rovingreporters.co.za