Johannesburg – On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Miss South Africa finalists spent the day at the Soweto Animal Rescue and Advisory Centre to give love and much-needed affection to the animals there.
“It was just about giving some love. It’s lovely that there’s an organisation that looks after animals and that the girls can give back to the communities,” managing director at Nine Squared Communications & Events, Stephanie Weil, said on Monday.
The 12 finalists handed over leashes, dog food and treats, blankets, and collars. The women doted over the animals and learnt about what the shelter does.
Jerry Selwane, a former SPCA inspector who runs the centre, said there is a need for education about animal care. The organisation, which has been in existence since 2011, has the power to prosecute animal abuse cases and dog-fighting syndicates.
Educate and advise
“We help people with all of their animal-related issues. Our aim is to educate and advise on animal care,” he said.
Boipelo Mabe, 23, from Alexandra, said that in the township, animal care is not a priority.
“I have so much more to take back home to tell people that this is an aspect of our community that matters that needs to be brought to the fore,” she said.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, 21, from Sedgefield said it was a great initiative.
Not only the animals at the centre have gone through a lot. Some of the staff, affectionately known as “Jerry’s Rangers”, see the centre as a haven and claim that the animals have rescued them.
Thabang Baloyi had been working there since last year. He trained as a prosecuting officer.
'They give me a smile'
“I’m an ex-drug addict. I used to use nyaope and it was difficult for me to finish matric because I was doing drugs, but luckily my parents pushed me. I went to three rehabs, but that didn’t help. There came a point in my life when it was all enough. I got an opportunity to be a prosecuting officer here,” he said.
Baloyi has been clean for the past four years and is proud of his progress. A local support group helped him find his feet, and he has been working his way up ever since.
“Now I’m working, I’m making my mom proud. I used to make her feel ashamed. People used to ridicule her.”
For Baloyi, seeing the animals happy gives him joy. He says the animals have rescued him.
“Working with animals is like a therapy session. If you quit drugs and there is nothing that you do, your mind idles. You think about bad things. All that comes to mind is smoking. Keeping busy occupies your mind. Working with animals helped me a lot, it rehabilitated me. They give me a smile, it’s a different task every day, a different adventure every day,” he said.
The Miss SA pageant will take place on 26 March.