10 November 2017
Master tracker and facilitator Pokkie and his lecturer wife Janetta have been with the Tracker Academy since its first intake of students in 2010. The Academy is a non-profit training division of the SA College for Tourism (SACT), that operates under the auspices of Peace Parks Foundation with the purpose of training disadvantaged rural people in the traditional skills of tracking.
With Pokkie’s assistance, Janetta developed the course material – which is CATHSSETA accredited - and presents lectures to students; Pokkie does the field work training with them.
Entirely self taught, Pokkie says he has been tracking since the age of 12. “I learnt from my dad when he trapped rooikatte (caracal) and I became adept at fine details. Something was just in me to do this; tracking is my world.” Before joining Tracker Academy, Pokkie worked for SANParks for 33 years, but says: “It was my dream to show people how to track animals. I am so happy here.” Clearly, so are his students.
Tshepo Dzemba from Mpumalanga says with Pokkie’s guidance he now feels connected to the bush. “I now know that everything is connected and nothing in the world is useless. This course has brought positive change to my life, like you can’t believe.” Kaneth Makhubela from Limpopo says he loves applying his mind and senses to create the picture of what has happened in the bush. I never knew that a tree could give you information and that they’re connected to people and animals. The course has opened my mind a lot. I now see animals in a different way, with emotion. Our trainers are excellent and I feel lucky to have them.”
Pokkie smiles and says modestly: “The secret is to be sharp. Listen, look, smell. It’s about the big picture around you, not just the track. So don’t track looking down like a bushpig. Look ahead, look around and you won’t walk into danger. Tracking is a good skill for life because it makes you aware of everything around you.”
Janetta Bock, who has been married to Pokkie for 18 years, says the first time she saw a gemsbok she thought it was a big springbok. Now she’s responsible for all the theory training. “I come alive when teaching the birds,” she says enthusiastically, “and there is always a big picture behind what you see in the bush.” She says she has seen so many students better their lives through the course, where six months is spent at Samara and six months at Londolozi. Students all say that Pokkie and Janetta have uplifted them immeasurably.
In 2014 Pokkie was also named as one of the 21 South African Icons, and says he was honestly surprised at the honour. “For me it’s simple,” he explains, “tracking is my life. I know I was born to track. I think I have some Bushman blood in me.”