Sabelo Maku is a man with a big smile and a heart equally as large. He’s a guy with the kind of warmth, generosity of spirit and openness that you want in a tour guide. He’s the kind of person who epitomises the African concept of Ubuntu, that Faldela was talking about, of being open and available, and sharing.
We met Sabelo, a guide working for local sustainable tour company, Andulela, when we did a Cape Malay cooking class in Bo-Kaap. We liked the way he was so engaged, getting in there and getting his hands dirty. The guy also has impressive kneading skills!
Born in Qhaga, a small rural village on the Easter Cape, 36 year-old Sabelo is married with three kids, a 5 year-old son and two daughters aged four and three. He’s a busy guy, working full-time and studying to complete a tourism management degree, but as he told us when we met him at Bo-Kaap Museum, “We need to work hard. As Nelson Mandela, who is our inspiration, said, we must strive for what we want.”
“People were destroyed by apartheid. They had no self-esteem. But as Obama said, “Yes, we can!” We can do this!” Mandela made us realise that, that our strength is our people,” Sabelo explains. “We can improve our lives if we want. Mandela gave us that confidence.”
A Local Guide to Cape Town – an interview with Sabelo Maku
Q. What do you most love about your work as a guide?
A. I love meeting different people and learning more about their cultures and sharing my culture and experiences.
Q. Why should people come to Cape Town?
A. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and has the most hospitable people, whilst it is also very rich in its diversity.
Q. 3 words to describe Cape Town?
A. Cosmopolitan, beautiful and relaxed.
Q. 3 words to describe the people?
A. Vibey, warm and friendly.
Your top tips for visitors?
A. Eat at a local tshisa nyama (braai or barbecue place) in a township – you’ll learn more about township life in several hours than you would in a week’s visit or listening to tourist guides. Try to visit a local person’s home for a lekker braai (nice barbecue) to learn about one of the most important of our many South African traditions. Visit Bo Kaap to learn about the people whose roots lie in South East Asia, see this beautiful and colourful area, and learn about the famous cuisine.
Q. Best souvenir from Cape Town?
A. An oil tin guitar – it’s a unique instrument that demonstrates the tenacity and resilience of the local black folks, despite all that stood in front of them. This is a symbol of character.
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. A Cape Malay Cooking Safari with Andulela of course! It gives you a chance to use this universal theme of food to interact and exchange with locals in their homes. Lunch at Mzoli’s, a barbecue place in a township where you can hang out with a difference, learn about local African cuisine, and join a big party at the same time. A meal at Marco’s Place, which specialises in African food, but is not restricted to it. It’s also a very nice place to relax for some very good jazz and other entertainment.
Q. An essential thing to know before coming to Cape Town?
A. There are 11 official languages in South Africa and three in the Western Cape and Cape Town: English, Afrikaans (a creolised language, similar to Dutch) and Xhosa (the language of one of the indigenous people of South Africa). Nelson Mandela is a Xhosa. It’s always warming for the locals to be greeted in their mother tongue.
Q. Most important phrase to learn in one of those languages?
A. Molo, which is hello in Xhosa, and Goeie dag, hello in Afrikkans.
Q. Any other advice?
A. Be street smart and don’t be too flashy, otherwise you stand out. And try not to stay in hotels, but at people’s homes, where you can learn from them about their way of life.