Cape Town – Nobody in the Mother City complains about rain any more, so not even bitter cold and scudding clouds could keep hundreds of bikers away from the Bikers for Mandela Day ride from the City Hall out to Drakenstein prison on Saturday morning, led by Zelda La Grange, who was Tata Madiba’s personal assistant for many years.
They parked both sides of Darling Street – closed off for the occasion – full, several bikes deep, for two city blocks, overflowing the area set out for them by Traffic Services by several hundred metres. And this was more than purely a mainstream motorcycling event - although the ‘patch club’ riders were there in their numbers.
The very professional Lancet Laboratories scooter fleet was there in full strength on their white Vespas, as was the newly formed Sym Social Club of Cape Town, alongside the Harley Owners Group and an array of bikes large and small, all ridden by Capetonians who felt that living Madiba’s legacy was more important than staying warm and dry.
Because the event was all about something very close to Mandela’s heart – education, in particular the schooldays missed by so many teenage girls across South Africa because they simply don’t have access to something as basic as sanitary pads. The ‘Keep a Girl Child in School’ campaign aims to supply millions of schoolgirls with what that need to keep them in school throughout their cycle - a small but vital step towards giving the millennials who will inherit this country the best possible start in life.
It was heartening to see bulging rucksacks most riders brought, and the embarrassed but determined faces of the male riders who didn’t know what to bring, as they crowded around the Mimi Women stall in front of the city hall, in most cases buying not one but several packs, each a sufficient to keep an girl child in school for a year.
They say that if it rains on your parade, it’s a sign that the ancestors approve; if so, the heavy rain that started as soon as La Grange stepped up to the microphone to welcome the riders and stopped the moment the last rider had left Darling Street, set the seal on the day’s event in no uncertain terms.
Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille sent them on their way with an invitation to make this an annual Bikers for Mandela event and, in typical Capetonian fashion, as soon as the ride got underway the sun came out. The ride out to Drakenstein prison was remarkable only for the steam coming off the riders’ clothes as they dried out, and the pile of packs of sanitary pads around the base the statue of Mandela at Drakenstein prison that commemorates the spot where he took the last few triumphant steps of his long walk to freedom in 1990.