Songezo Jim’s Mission
With his 2015 Vuelta a Espana performance, Songezo Jim holds the distinction of being the first ever black South African to complete a Grand Tour. The then-MTN-Qhubeka and Team Dimension Data professional went on to compete in the Giro ‘d Italia the following year, before being let go by his employers. A less than stellar year spent with the small Kuwait–Cartucho.es followed before Songezo returned to South Africa to compete on the local circuit. And while his wish is to return to Europe and race at the top level, there is much more to the man from Cape Town than adding to his already impressive cycling palmares.
‘My academy is struggling at the moment but the guys are still training,’ said Songezo recently from his Team Samapada Cycling training camp in Mpumalanga. ‘We’ve got no sponsors at the moment so we’re looking for support. So it is quite challenging and frustrating all the same.’
Songezo’s Cycling Academy was born out Songezo’s own desire to give back. Based out of his home village of Masiphumelele, the academy’s mission is to keep children away from drugs and alcohol by introducing young talent to the sport of cycling. Academy members train on a daily basis from the South Peninsula township, resplendent in their “Songezo’s Cycling Academy” kit. The academy owns around thirty bikes, some donated by the likes of BEN, the Cape Town Cycle Tour and Rotary International, and others bought by Songezo himself. And while the life of a pro cyclist means that Songezo spends much of the year away from his community, his finger is firmly on the pulse of his proteges, no matter his location.
‘I train with the guys when I’m back in Cape Town but there are three helpers who take care of the kids whilst I’m away, so I’m constantly kept updated,’ he says. ‘But the academy strives to give more than just cycling training – we help the kids with their schoolwork and help them grow as people.’
And while it was Songezo’s own experiences in Europe that saw him grow as both a cyclist and a person, he maintains that his time at the top of the sport has not changed him in any way.
‘I’m still the same old Songezo,’ he says. ‘And my friends are still my friends. I still live in Masiphumelele, my house there being the academy’ base.’