Dreams realised and others deferred (3) The renaissance man

2010-07-14 09:54

Renaissance Man

A passer-by waves to Leon Bannau and stops to chat.

It’s the

umpteenth time this has happened to the ­48-year-old facilities manager at

Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba ­Stadium during the course of just an hour.

Bannau is a legend around these parts, with security officers and

construction workers alike stopping to exchange greetings with him. He is also

constantly on the move.

“If you want me to die, ask me to sit,” he jokes.

Bannau oversees the day-to-day management of the facility.

During the World Cup the stadium will become his second home, where

he will ensure that things are running smoothly during matches.

Bannau is also a renaissance man of sorts; he serves as the

secretary for Limpopo Athletics and is a certified referee. He went back to

school at the age of 38 and is currently working on his third degree.

“This is my kingdom,” Bannau says, referring to the stadium.

The new Peter Mokaba Stadium is a majestic reincarnation of the old

one, which is still visible just across the street.

Its multi-coloured seats

form a checkerboard pattern that is reflected in the glass panes of the new

stadium – a more stately version of the former. Decorative baobab trees guard

the entrance to the new ­facility.

In the days leading up to the handover of the stadium to Fifa,

Bannau and his men are working on the finishing touches, installing security

cameras and signs.

The Head Girls of Style

Some World Cup ­spectators and backpackers staying at the Soweto

schools which have been ­transformed into fan ­accommodation might forget that

they are living in what was ­previously a classroom.

Pretty Barrington is one of two designers who worked to ­convert

the classrooms into liveable spaces for visitors during the global football


What used to be an ordinary classroom at the Morris Isaacson High

School in White City, ­Soweto, is now fitted out with brightly ­decorated beds,

matching ­curtains, a television and some closet drawers.

Chuckling alongside her ­co-designer, Stella de Beer, ­Barrington

says: “We have had to be very – how can I put it? – Afro-Euro­centric.”

To accommodate ­international as well as local visitors, each

classroom has been infused with ­elements of African, Asian and European


One bedding design is ­reminiscent of the patterns on ­Scottish

kilts, while another has Chinese-looking flower shapes.

Barrington and De Beer help pick out the fabrics and arrange the

structure of the rooms.

Since last October they have worked on more than 1 000 beds.

­Barrington says: “The challenges are in finding out about the

people who are going to stay here. Where are they coming from?”

She says that heaters will be put in some rooms.

These conversions are a part of Soweto Focus Point, an organisation

which works with local ­communities to provide housing, catering and tourist

services to visitors during big events in South Africa.

Morris Isaacson High is one of a number of schools converted ­into

affordable accommodation.

Barrington says the project ­empowers locals and will hire

­unemployed matriculants during the World Cup.

She says: “It is going to ­bring about changes in their lives. Not

only are they going to be doing the job for us, but they are going to be

­interacting with people.

“We are visionaries, dreaming every day. We trust that this is

­going to make things better for us. Who knows – perhaps foreigners will be

impressed too.”

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