Changing people’s perceptions is just part of the job for township tour guide Mpumie Kangelani.
Mpumie (Nompulelo) was born in the Eastern Cape, and comes from a family of nine. She did most of her schooling in the Eastern Cape, but moved to Cape Town when she was 16 and attended Langa High School. Langa is the place she still calls home and lives there with her husband and four children.
She started her working career as a cashier, but then made the decision to enter the tourism industry after seeing a guide showing a group of tourists around her township.
“My English wasn’t very good at the beginning, but after taking many groups of tourists around, it improved very quickly,” she laughs. “What I like about tour guiding is that it is different to working as a cashier, there is not so much pressure.”
She works as a freelance guide, which allows for a lot of flexibility but can be difficult at times due to income being very inconsistent, but was paying the bills and Mpumie was doing a job she loved.
Life on Pause
Her last guiding job was around the 23rd of March, before South Africa went into national lockdown, and she hasn’t been able to work since then.
“It’s bad now. I am hungry. We don’t have money,” she says, sounding defeated. “I get a social grant for my one child, but that’s all for the whole month.”
She did apply for the TERS relief from government, but has yet been unable to get any relief.
Mpumie remains hopeful that she will be able to work again once the tourism industry opens up, but also points out that there is some resistance to tourists visiting the townships from some quarters.
“If you talk to people around the township, some of them say things like that – we musn’t bring tourists because they bring the coronavirus. They know that coronavirus comes from China and the UK and that.”
Seeing the townships with new eyes
However, she remains hopeful that once the industry opens up – she thinks it will be in November and December – that she will get back to work, doing what she loves – showing visitors around her part of the world.
“I like showing them how we live together in the community,” she says, “The only thing that they know about the township is that it has a high rate of crime. But, when they come here and you just try and change their mind – – they see it is nothing like that.”
Mpumie enjoys showing her tourists groups the culture and heritage of Cape Town, and also giving visitors the opportunity to challenge their own perceptions.
“We give them a nice narrative and also a picture of life in the township. We try to change their mind about poverty. When they come here for the first time and then they come back to visit us later, they see changes taking place.”
She is very proud of Cape Town, the sights and attractions and although things have been particularly tough over the past few months, she has no intention of giving up tourism.
“I Am Tourism,” says Mpumie.