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I am Mawande

Like all locals, Gigi Lewis loves WANDU. She is an ace photographer and indomitable adventurer who insists on enjoying life to the full – which is no wonder she interviewed me at my 'eKasi' Home in Knysna (her take on me follows :-)

Mawande has a restaurant in the Knysna Township. He oozes charm and good feeling  and his food is very good indeed.
His stories about his life and the  Xhosa traditions are wonderful. I don't think I have heard him say anything  negative about anyone. He laughs and he tells stories, and he talks about his  vision for the future.

I greet him cautiously in isiXhosa - “Molo, Mawande” - to hide my  embarrassment for being a day late for the interview...

The directions given  by Mawande Kondlo, 36, were perfect but I had taken the wrong Uniondale road  the  previous afternoon - the one that turns off the N2 in Plett instead of the  one  at Nekkies in Knysna. He smiles and politely apologises for causing me such  inconvenience.

We tour his remarkable two-storey, brick-clad house,  converted from an ordinary government subsidised dwelling on a hill in  Khayalethu into a comfortable three-bedroomed home, topped on the first floor  by  his cosy restaurant, Here, and  on a covered patio on  the same floor, visitors can experience authentic African  hospitality and, in  addition to a three-course traditional meal, listen to the  rhythmic beats of  local drummers by the fireside. His restaurant is popular with  locals and visitors alike.“It all started one weekend in 2009, when my wife  Penny  (‘Vuyisa’ in isiXhosa) went to visit family in Oudtshoorn,” he chuckles. “During her absence, to avoid any confrontation, I transformed our main   bedroom upstairs into the restaurant.” He and Vuyisa never look back on those  times, knowing that their sons Wandu, 5, and Chume, 3, will grow up comfortably  in the future.
Born in Oudtshoorn in 1975, Mawande remembers: “When I  matriculated in my home town, I had to pay a fee of R48 for the test papers,  which was at a time when my parents earned very low wages and could not afford  my further education.”

He has strong beliefs about his Xhosa identity and  although he recently completed his second year of studying theology through  distance learning, he is convinced that he can bring his own culture into the  modern age. A theology degree will help him to counsel members of his  community, especially HIV/Aids victims, and provide pastoral care. Asked if   he went to a tribal initiation school, he answers calmly: “Yes, of course. As a  member of the Mfengu culture, I completed my Ukwaluka (initiation period) in  Oudtshoorn. In fact, when I heard my matric results through a friend, I was in   white clay.”

Boys are mainly initiated during the Christmas holiday period,  so he added: “I wish those who go through Ukwaluka at this time that they go  well, and respect and honour the direction which they have been given.” 
Mawande moved to Knysna in 1995 to seek a better life and eventually hit  upon a position at Knysna Log Inn. Here he saw a chance to get a foot into the  tourism industry and was soon promoted to night manager. During his six years   here, he earnt many aspects of the business, from helping to cook in the  kitchen to managing the front desk.“Then, I was into earing jackets and  ties,” he pulls a funny face. “I noticed that Knysna people were so involved  with tourism that all I craved for was to be part of it. I wanted a badge with  my name on, as flaunted by the tourist guides who strutted through the hotel.”

Inspired by the buzz of it all, Mawande signed up for a course with the   Livingstone Tourism Academy. He studied at night, while it was quiet at work,  and qualified as first accredited black tourist guide on the Garden  Route.He  continues: “I listened to people when they asked if they could go into the  townships, if there were restaurants or bars or places to stay and, in  my free  time, arranged trips for them.” When demands for his tours sped  upin 2006,  Mawande left his employment and started Bayambo Tours, his own  company. He  explains: “I simply have three motivations for my work.  Firstly, I want to show  visitors that things are changing for the better in our  country. Secondly, I am  keen to promote our Xhosa culture and maintain our  heritage. Thirdly, I’d like  to generate a township brand that can create its  own economy.”

The idea  behind these strategies is that everyone must benefit  from a township tour, be  it the school, informal settlement, sangoma, shebeen  or restaurant - they all  contribute to a whole new township experience and so  earn the right to some of  the pickings paid for by appreciating  tourists.Massive media exposure during  last year’s Soccer World Cup put  Mawande in the limelight. The Danish and French  football teams that stayed in  Knysna, along with their media and VIPs visited  his township restaurant and  enjoyed the African ‘ubuntu’. Then Knysna mayor  Eleanore Bouw-Spies took a  visiting French mayor and other dignitaries from the  municipality and Knysna Tourism for a meal.Today,many locals have enjoyed  interaction with township  people that was previously impossible. Mawande  sets a shining example -  having found his own calling with a tenacity that  provided him with two  companies so far, he also received an invitation in  January from Knysna Tourism  CEO Shaun van Eck to attend an international tourism  exhibition in Utrecht in  the Netherlands. “To exchange ideas with people  from all over the world  surpassed my wildest dreams. I now plan to fully convert  my home into a guesthouse with a restaurant. Mawande answers my standard  questions as  follows:“The highlight in my working life so far is my trip to  Utrecht and  to have had contact and exchanged ideas with tour operators from all  over the  world. In my private life, my family, my boys, take precedence. I was  always  hoping not to have children before the age of 30. Wandu was born in that  year.

“Important to me in life is doing things right and having the passion  and  patience needed to connect with people, especially my family.“When I  have time to relax, I like sitting in my living room and watching a good  programme on TV, or reading some inspiring Christian books. I also do a lot of  outdoor  activities with family and friends.“The advice I would give people  who want  to come out of their mould is to seek guidance from their elders. Find  out your  speciality. By that I mean find out what you are good at and what you  can do  and then do it, one step at a time. I have to work hard for example  when I  prepare for a speech or a sermon – but I know I can do it. And don’t copy  other  people, be yourself.“My business is eco-tourism, therefore it is   complementing the environment and the legacy we leave behind for future   generations. We must all contribute to preserving nature by altering our   lifestyle.“If successful people in business could talk to and help those   that are starting out, it would certainly bring about the changes in South   Africa that could make this country a Garden of Eden to live in.   “I  devised my own favourite quotation: ‘Never forget where you come from but also  focus on where you are going.’”

Community tours that involve the community

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