IMPACT | PROGRESS FOR THE AFRIKA FREEDOM CLIMBERS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Following a meeting between representatives of Mountain Club South Africa (MCSA), the Afrika Freedom Climbers and equitysport, we are delighted to report a significant breakthrough in the mission to diversify mountain sports in South Africa.
Photo: Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
In early-April 2022, equitysport announced that as part of its work to support and amplify the work of our local partners, we had supported the development and co-signed an official letter of grievance to the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) from the South African mountain sport non-profit, the Afrika Freedom Climbers (AFC).
That letter was filed with the UIAA following a decision in 2016 by Mountain Club South Africa (MCSA) to submit recommendations to the South African Government that sought to block financial assistance to the AFC which would help the organisation deliver on their mission to diversify South African mountaineering sport.
Despite repeated attempts to resolve the issue directly with the MCSA by the AFC since 2016, those efforts had failed to elicit a constructive response from the governing body. Since the submission of the letter to the UIAA in April, it should be noted that the response from the recently appointed MCSA President has been swift, empathetic and constructive.
On 27th April 2022, representatives from the MCSA, the Afrika Freedom Climbers and equitysport met to discuss the matter formally, with a view to plot a path towards a resolution. The MCSA leadership outlined the origins of the previous recommendations that were made to the South African Government and outlined how the MCSA were prepared to amend and clarify those recommendations with immediate effect.
We are delighted to report that, following a wide-ranging discussion, the MCSA has announced the following changes to their recommendations to the South African Government:
The objectives of the Afrika Freedom Climbers: to diversify the face of mountaineering, is a laudable objective;
Taking into account the current situation and developments which exist on 8000m peaks, being that it is difficult, if not impossible, to climb these mountains without engaging a commercial operator, who often have a "monopoly" on access and the most popular routes up the mountain;
The MCSA celebrates individuals and teams who themselves organise/mount/launch mountain climbing expeditions which explore, climb mountains and routes in "pure", unassisted, self-reliant manner, and without commercially employed guides on the mountain;
The MSCA does not object to a team of Afrika Freedom Climbers using commercial operators to achieve the ascent of any 8000m peak they wish to climb;
We [the MCSA] would respectfully suggest the relevant [South African] Government entities consider the application/proposal of Afrika Freedom Climbers, and then decide what support to give to the AFC.
Thale Katlego Letheo, Director at the Afrika Freedom Climbers said of the breakthrough:
"Today, South Africa is celebrating Freedom Day to commemorate the first democratic election that happened at the end of apartheid 28 years ago!
This is such a poignant day to have had a positive, encouraging meeting alongside our collaborators at equitysport with the leadership of MCSA.
Our freedom wasn't free. Hopefully with time, the freedom of the hills will no longer be for the privileged few."
Tim Harper, Executive Director at equitysport added:
"This is an encouraging breakthrough for the Afrika Freedom Climbers and their wider mission.
Thale and her team at AFC must be supported in their mission to diversify mountain sports in South Africa. We hope that this change in position and the detailed clarification from the MCSA will allow the AFC to secure the government funding it requires to deliver on its mission.
It should be noted that Paul at the MCSA, who has inherited this matter from the previous leadership at the organisation, has responded with empathy and a clear and genuine desire to listen, understand and make changes where they are needed. We are grateful for his urgency and his support."
Please consider following Afrika Freedom Climbers on Instagram and lend your support to more diverse, more equitable mountain sports in South Africa (and beyond).
equitysport is a values-led registered charity (1189559) that exists to advance equality, promote diversity and extend equal opportunity in and through global sport. We seek an inclusive and equitable sporting ecosystem that lives true to the values of sport.
For interviews or further comment from equitysport, please contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org
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