While February is widely known as “love month” elsewhere in the country, in Mopani district it is also celebrated for being marula fruits month where people from different walks of life gather at Marula Festival to celebrate the beginning of marula fruits season.
The tradition commence with the performing of rituals and sampling of marula beer by traditional leaders in order to launch harvesting season of marula fruits. This heritage practice forbids any harvesting or drinking of marula beverage before traditional leaders have given their blessings. The launch is then followed up by two to three weeks of marula festival that showcase different kinds of music, marula products, cultural food, golf challenge, and many other activities.
Among the events of Marula Festival, the golf challenge, which is hosted at Hans Merensky Golf Estate, is one of the most popular activities that attract people from all over the country and the province. The event is so popular to an extent that it is even featured on the golfing calendar.
For those that love golf sport, it is a fantastic way to experience new courses, which are often offered at a reduced green-fee during marula festivals or even free-of-charge to youth on the golf development programme, most of whom are local caddies who would otherwise never afford to play at the luxurious golf club.
However, this year’s February was devoid of all the usual entertainments due to Covid-19 pandemic. And this is a big loss to the local people of Phalaborwa town, who rake in millions of rands through marula fruits products and tourism facilities. “I hope next year would be different, and we would be able to play golf tournament again,” commented Jeffrey Shibambu, one of the local players under Marula golf development programme.
Shibambu, used to be a caddy at Hans Merensky Golf Estate before the golf club decided to do away with caddies. Now his only chance to set foot at the golf club is during the Marula golf development programme which happens during Marula Festival season.
Without the festival, this year has become a doom to him and his friends who are so used to Marula golf challenge that they sometimes make some little income out of it doing some caddy work despite the golf club’s policy that forbids the service of caddies in the golf course.