There was excitement at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria as correctional service officials from Southern African countries competed in the Sports and Culture Games on Monday.
The games were opened by South Africa’s department of correctional services (DCS) and saw prison officials from Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe competing against each other in various sports at Kgosi Mampuru and other sports venues in the city. The sports include soccer, netball, athletics, volleyball, tennis and golf.
The sports ground was split into two soccer fields with South Africa playing against Botswana on one and Zimbabwe taking on Namibia on the other.
Seated under trees while the matches were in progress were officials from various countries conversing and getting to know each other.
This is what the department was hoping to achieve, acting director for wellness at DCS Sandile Mthembu said.
He said the heads of correctional facilities in the Sadc region decided sport should be integrated for health and fitness reasons and also to relieve tension as officials work in stressful environments.
“This is the type of engagements we want as there are certain values we learn from them. When you see them sitting under a tree, you realise our cultures are common but there is a lot we need to talk about and share,” he said.
At other venues including Pilditch Stadium, prison officials competed against each in track events. Others took part in netball, including the men, with tug-of-war added to the tournament.
Botswana excelled in the tug-of-war, beating both Namibia and Eswatini 2-0. They also did well on the soccer pitch, drawing 1-1 with South Africa in their third fixture.
“The first game was against Namibia, which we won 3-0. The second game was against Zambia and we drew 1-1. We are very excited. So far so good in South Africa. We received a warm welcome.”
“We are doing this for networking and basically to wind down and relieve stress because our work is stressful and can be demanding. This is to enjoy and to get to know each other in a relaxed manner and not an official set-up,” said Snr Supt Oagile Kojane, public relations officer for the Botswana Prison Service.
Winners of the games will move on to the semifinals which takes place on Thursday while awards will be handed out on Friday before the closing ceremony.
As much as the tournament was a friendly event, Mthembu said they took the tournament seriously by getting referees from SA Football Association and assistance from retired professional soccer players.