Racing driver Gennaro Bonafede visited a Mamelodi school to plant trees in a move to encourage children to be green-conscious and prove that the motor racing industry is slowly becoming so, too.
The 23-year-old, who is a third-year industrial engineering student and DJ, planted five trees at Pheladi-Nakene Primary School, after his Miss Earth South Africa girlfriend Tamerin Jardine encouraged him.
“I’m a racing driver for Audi in top-level South Africa racing and she said, ‘It’s time I made your carbon footprint greener because those things are strenuous (sic) on the environment,’ the fuel and pollution… It was good to plant a couple of trees and show that the message is positive from our side.”
The event was aimed at highlighting the importance of trees, which improve air quality by providing oxygen, conserving water and preserving the soil. Last year the school received six peach trees from the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre to expand the “fixed” diet provided by the government-run feeding scheme at the school. The school is also hoping to raise an orchard and is seeking donations from the community.
“The kids were very happy. They [Bonafede and Jardine] have [a]way of motivating these kids to make them understand the important of trees and making them love and take care of these trees,” said Donald Lekgau, a teacher at the school who also runs a gardening project and maintains the school environment. He added that the children had even named the trees after themselves. “They were asking me, ‘Should we water the plants in the morning?’ I said no, do it in the afternoon. That showed me how much they are interested in that.”
Katlego Lebogo, 12, a seventh-grade learner said he was excited at the tree planting. “I had a lot of fun. I learned how to plant a tree and I [can] plant trees everywhere so that our country can live a healthy country.”
He said he will start picking up rubbish anywhere he sees it and will look after four trees at community teaching centre. “We learned that our world is damaged by gases so we must plants trees for us to breathe… [The] racing driver he said that to us he knows racing cards are the damaging the world so he must do something.”
Bonafede said motor-sporting South Africa are keeping an eye on how they are impacting the environment. One suggestion he makes is recycling the rubber tyres used in racing to plant vegetable gardens. Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal gave the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) the go-ahead to initiate its Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan after an unsuccessful challenge by the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). REDISA aims to ensure that waste tyres are disposed of, stored and recycled properly by requiring tyre producer to register.
Bonafede reckoned it was possibly the first time anyone in racing had done something like what he did at Pheladi-Nakene in their personal capacity. “It was my first time but I really enjoyed it. It was nice to the see the kids get involved and helping us. … [it’s] nice to see such a small difference on our side can make such a huge difference in their lives.”
The pupils piqued when Bonafede showed them pictures of the Audi S4 he drove and promised he would get them tickets so they can watch him at the Top Gear Festival in Durban in June. “They would never see things like that. I could see excitement in the kids’ faces.”
Bonafede races nationally for Audi and Ferodo Racing. He competed at the Top Gear Festival in Durban last month (June) and hoping to repeat his 2012 Street Race victory.