Luthando Kaka, a member of Team Bonitas professional road cycling team, has been selected by the Department of Sport and Recreation as one of the top 100 most influential sports people in South Africa during 2011.

Kaka, the first black South African cyclist to secure a full-time professional contract with a leading commercial team, had been an integral member of Team Bonitas for the past three years.

The 26-year-old, who hails originally from Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, was contacted by Alec Moemi, the Director General of Sport and Recreation to inform him of his selection.

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The Dept of Sport and Recreation is giving Team Bonitas stalwart, Luthando Kaka, recognition for his far-reaching influence in cycling development.

Photo: Craig Dutton

“Sport and Recreation South Africa is working on a little green book to feature top 100 most influential people in sport during the period of January to December 2011. The purpose of this exercise is to recognise and acknowledge the contribution that has been made by sportsmen and women in the sporting fraternity. Your name was amongst the names of people who were selected to form part of the list of 100 most influential people in sport to be included in the little book,” said the letter from Moemi.

“It's quite an honour to be considered that influential. However, it should be seen more about awareness of cycling development than about me personally,” said Kaka, who is a board member of Velokhaya, a non-profit education-based township cycling development organisation based in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town.

Kaka, a Velokhaya graduate, is an example of how a bicycle can empower and transform a life and he's passionate about ensuring a similar path is available to others.

“Where possible, I do my best to ensure that opportunities are available for youngsters in previously disadvantage communities. I wrote to the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula after he participated in this year's Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, asking if he could help leave a legacy following his participation in the event and his interest in cycling. He agreed and arranged a donation of 19 bicycles and equipment to Velokhaya. He handed them over personally.

“Those bicycles are now helping improve the lives of township children and that is what sustainable development is all about,” smiled Kaka.

Kaka, a former Western Province Under-23 road race champion and member of the South African national team on multiple occasions, made the news last year for offering his place in the African Games team to Bonitas teammate Darren Lill.

Originally one of four riders selected to represent South Africa at the Games in Mozambique, Kaka asked Cycling SA officials that a 'bigger-hitting rider' be sent instead. It was decided to replace Kaka with an in-form Lill, giving the South African team the depth it needed after having, at the time, slipped behind Eritrea and Morocco in the African nation rankings.

Lill won silver (individual time trial) and bronze (road race) medals and helped South Africa win gold in the team time trial.

“Luthando is a committed member of Team Bonitas and a pioneer in terms of cycling development. Not only has he benefitted from a structured development programme at Velokhaya, but he is committed to helping it grow to reach more talented youngsters in the townships.

“He is a fantastic ambassador for our team and for cycling development and we are very proud that his efforts have been recognised by the Department of Sport and Recreation,” said Malcolm Lange of Lange Sports, the company that owns Team Bonitas.