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Carst and Walker
Lwando Dabata

Orley Foods worker puts new meaning into the long commute, er, run to work

Lack of initiative seems to be a modern malaise, especially in South Africa with its unfortunate history of the personal disempowerment of the mass of its people. But not for Lwando Dabata (left), a factory line operator at specialist chocolate and confectionery ingredients company, Orley Foods, in Cape Town’s Montague Gardens.

Last July, a taxi strike in DeNoon township found Lwando stuck without any means of getting to work except on his own two feet. Undeterred, he walked the 8kms to Orley Foods, and back again at the end of the day – and found it a physical breeze.

A keen distance athlete when at school in the Eastern Cape, 27-year old Lwando’s long walk inspired him to start running to and from work every day, and the more he did, it, the more he loved it.

Not only did it save him plenty in taxi fares, but he started enjoying all the benefits that go with regular exercise: he lost 12kg, quit smoking and found new energy, zest for life and peace of mind.

This February, Lwando moved to live in Mitchell’s Plain, some 35kms away from Montague Gardens. Commuting this distance is expensive in time and money – and so Lwando has continued his foot commute, a mere 70kms!

This he does at least three times a week – come rain, south-easter or shine – leaving home at 5am and getting back around 7pm. Ironically, he says it takes somewhat less time than via taxi and bus.

Lwando’s incredible weekly journeys came to light when Orley Foods introduced a new staff recognition programme, with Lwando nominated and winning its May prize, which, needless to say, he quickly spent on top-end running shoes.

The person who nominated Lwando was Orley’s occupational health sister, Jolita Polson, who says: “Lwando’s heroic commute to and from work is remarkable, in effect he’s running an ultra-marathon three times in the working week. It’s an amazing physical and mental feat, and it has been wonderful to witness his overall health improvement; he has found a passionate new life interest in running and competing – and he never stops smiling.”

With Orley’s sponsorship, Lwando has joined his local running club in Mitchell’s Plain, the Titans, and now gets all the benefits of being a registered runner.

Motivated and very competitive to up his race times, he has quickly become the club’s best athlete and now has his eye on seriously competing in the Two Oceans and Comrades marathons – he reckons he could even come in with a gold medal in the Two Oceans if all goes to plan.

Lwando’s achievements, too, have inspired several other men in his community to start running and to take control of their health and wellness.

“We’re both proud and in awe of Lwando, and he’s a true inspiration to all of us at Orley. He’s not allowed tough circumstances to get the better of him – rather he’s turned them into something remarkably positive. His is a true “Lead South Africa” story,” comments Orley’s CEO, Craig Henry.

As for Lwando himself, he remains unfazed by all the new attention: “At first people thought I was crazy, and they still do. But they can see crazy has been good for me.”

* Written by Brenda Neall on behalf of Orley Foods

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