Change the world


Hub and spokes mean more than bicycles for keen triathlete Vuyo Bongela, the director of Madibaz Sports at Nelson Mandela University.


In July 2023, Vuyo Bongela cycled from London to Paris to raise funds and help launch a new Sports, Arts, and Culture Hub within the Hubs of Convergence (HoC) in the University’s Engagement Office. 

Gillian McAinsh reports.  

The existing Hubs of Convergence cover areas, such as food sovereignty, gender-based violence and community-based economic activities, among others, and the new hub will take the University’s engagement further. 

This new hub will radiate out through the “spokes” of sports, arts and culture to help grow and develop communities in these areas. 

“We’re a university that operates in service of society, foregrounds ubuntu and looks after each other,” says Vuyo. 

“In my position at Madibaz Sports I am inundated by requests from athletes, coaches and parents requiring assistance, either for overseas sporting participation or community sport clubs’ equipment requests.  

“Through this new hub we will identify which community sports club and individual we will support to help them reach their dreams.” 

Being involved in the new hub has been a personal passion for Vuyo, who spends much of her free time training or competing in sports such as swimming, cycling and running. 

“I recognise the value of sport in my own life – I never thought I would be able to do a full IRONMAN, or run the Comrades Marathon, but I have. 

“Now I am doing the bit that I can to contribute to someone’s dream.” 

The idea started over the first COVID-19 lockdown when a friend started a group, called Bafazi, of black women cyclists who rode together virtually, using the Zwift app to coordinate group meet-ups. The small sporting community grew over the pandemic to include members in South Africa, Botswana, Australia and England.  

Then, when lockdown lifted, Bafazi members were able to visit each other’s cities and countries for real-life cycling adventures. 

Bonjour Paris

For Vuyo, the pinnacle has been the London to Paris trip, undertaken from 20 to 22 July 2023. 

“What an incredible experience!” she says of the three-day tour. 

For a start, the South African and Botswana embassies honoured the group by hosting them before they set off on the epic journey. 

Under the gaze of the large London Eye, the peleton of 14 Bafazi women and two Bafazi-supporting men (Abalandeli), made its way south to the coast before taking the ferry across the English Channel to France. 

The Bafazi cycle group took three days to cycle from London to Paris, covering a distance of 395km. It included 3197m of climbing and descents. 

Day 1: 131km from London to Portsmouth  

(Board ferry and cross the English channel overnight to Caen in France)  

Day 2: 138km from Caen to Evreux 

Day 3: 126km from Evreux to Paris 

Day 4: Recovery, and chance to watch the end of the Tour de France. 

Once in France, Bongela and her squad quickly switched from riding on the left to the right side of the road, soaking up the French countryside. 

On their arrival in Paris, the South African Embassy invited Bafazi for lunch. The group was also able to watch the final stage of the Tour de France from a spot on the Champs-Élysées, rounding up the experience of a lifetime for the cycling enthusiasts. 

When people ask her how she managed to cycle hundreds of kilometres in only three days,  Vuyo has a ready answer.  

“My body was the last thing I worried about because I put in the work in preparation for the tour. I knew it was going to be hard but it was not a race, it was a tour – and I had planned for it. 

“I would definitely do it again … we’re thinking of Spain or Italy!” 

Vuyo paid for the cycle tour itself from her own pocket and then asked friends, colleagues and family to donate towards the launch of the Sports, Arts, and Culture Hub. This has raised R12 000 so far. 

“This money will be used to look at where we can help – and this is only the start,” says Vuyo.  

Going into the future, the University plans to build the Sports, Arts, and Culture Hub, linking with existing hubs where this is relevant. 

Why give to the Sports, Arts, and Culture Hub?

  • Community Impact: Your donation directly supports sports, arts, and culture within communities. 
  • Promoting Inclusivity: Help create an environment that celebrates diversity and provides equal opportunities for participation. 
  • Talent Nurturing: Support emerging talent in sports, arts, and culture by providing resources, training, and mentorship. 
  • Collaboration and Innovation: Link community-based initiatives and the University, fostering innovation and creative exploration. 
  • Well-being and Personal Development: Promote physical and mental well-being, self-expression and personal growth through sports, arts, and culture. 
  • Social Transformation: Contribute by challenging stereotypes and addressing social issues. 

Further information is available online at Hubs of Convergence

This article was published in the latest edition of Thetha our alumni and friends’ magazine

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057