Kayamandi township tour in Stellenbosch

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 30 July 2014

The Bites and Sites tour of Kayamandi is led by a passionate tour guide who’ll introduce you to entrepreneurs, artists and people who welcome you into their home to share a meal.
Kayamandi Township
The heavens have opened and I am trying to avoid slipping in the mud while sloshing through puddles in the gaps between shacks. My boots and skirt are sodden and I have given up trying to keep an umbrella above my head as it keeps getting stuck in between the pieces of tin that are the walls of somebody’s home. I was starting to get a bit grumpy.

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Then, it suddenly struck me. My sodden skirt and boots are what is called a “first world problem” as the people who reside in the tin shacks in Kayamandi Township live with this every time it rains. Yet, I see children laughing and playing in the rain while a woman carrying a plastic bucket on her head smiles and cheerfully shouts “Molo!” as she squishes past me. Suddenly my drenched skirt, boots and hair seem petty and I decide to change my attitude. I say “Molo” to everyone I see (and they all greet me back) and I wave and smile at the kids in the rain – who gleefully wave and smile back. Life is all about your attitude towards things and Kayamandi is full of people with a good attitude and a ready smile.

Our tour guide, Thembi Koli, who has been doing this Kayamandi township tour since 2004, is passionate about her town and her heritage. She told us about the history of the town (formally established in 1941) and regaled us with tales about local customs including lobola (which is still practiced today). In between all this she chatted to the locals, made sure we didn’t get lost and even offered me her scarf as I was clearly not correctly dressed for the weather!

We walked through the streets past brick houses and slipped through muddy gaps in-between the shacks. We stopped en-route at the local creche with its cheerfully painted walls and at a Spaza store where we all had a sip of banana-flavoured Mageu (a corn milk drink that was apparently a favorite of Nelson Mandela) that tasted quite good! We passed by a group of women who were slaughtering chickens where carcasses filled the table and blood ran down the street (you can’t be squeamish on a township tour). There were street braais and barber shops, restaurants and shebeens. Clothes were drying on the line and children and dogs roamed the streets.

Our first stop was at local potter Jimmy Datini’s home. Jimmy is from the Karoo and has been doing pottery for over 40 years. He sells his pottery in Stellenbosch and gives pottery lessons at the local schools. It was obvious that Jimmy enjoys teaching children how to work a pottery wheel as any children on the tour are offered the opportunity to make a clay bowl with Jimmy’s assistance. Having done pottery myself, I can tell you it was the fastest and most successful pottery lesson I have ever seen!

Next on the route was the home of jewellery-maker, Portia Mpangwa. Portia started out at Beads ‘n Thingz in the Eikestad Mall in 2003 and still does some designs on request for ‘Jade’ in Church Street. She cheerfully showed us her range of bracelets, beaded necklaces and earrings, which she makes at home in her bedroom. You are able to buy jewellery from her and she also does jewellery repairs and gives lessons. She told me that she’s a master at making knots – a skill to be proud of as making a knot at the end of thin bits of cotton or wire is a tricky business!

Our final stop on the tour was for lunch with Mamma Swartbooi, who happens to live in Swartbooi Street (named after her father-in-law). Hailing from the Northern Cape, Mamma Swartbooi arrived in Kayamandi in 1962 and has lived in her house on Swartbooi Street since 1976. She is also part of the “homestay” initiative and has been cooking and accommodating people since 2005. The lunch menu usually includes vetkoek and chakalaka, morogo (a spinach and potato dish), a pumpkin and sweetcorn dish, oven-baked chicken with potatoes, steamed bread and a dessert. As we had a quick stop, we were treated to vetkoek, morogo and chakalaka, with tea and homemade ginger beer. The table was simply, but proudly laid, the food was good and best of all, there was a fireplace!

Kayamandi means “sweet or pleasant home” in Xhosa and it seems to be just that. Even if most of the homes are not quite like the ones we are used to, they are cheerful and inviting despite the never-ending issue of leaking roofs, mud and poverty. And we can all learn something from that.

Township Walk and Xhosa Lunch with Bites and Sites Food Tours

Tours of Kayamandi take place Monday to Saturday, from 10h00 to 13h00. The tour is not cheap at R600 a person, but the money mostly goes to Thembi and the people who cook lunch (Mamma Swartbooi being one of them). Bites and Sites also contribute to Zenzele Crèche with food, their year-end ‘certificate ceremony’ and other needs as and when required. Tours can be tailor-made on request to make it more budget friendly for groups who are happy with a lighter lunch and shorter walking tour.
Yes, it may be pricey, but you are supporting the local community while learning a little more about township life and its interesting, creative and diverse people.


Tel 076 032 8234, email [email protected], www.bitesandsites.co.za.

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