Emzini Tours, a beacon of hope in post apartheid South Africa, is the realisation of the dreams of two extraordinary and dedicated women, Ella Mahlulo and Penny Mainwaring. Ella has fought her way through adversity and poverty in a rural area of the Eastern Cape whilst Penny has travelled the road from Zimbabwe to South Africa, a journey all too common these days. Both women are passionate about Africa and its people, and in particular they strive to bridge the enormous gap that prevails between the races in post apartheid South Africa.
Central to the apartheid philosophy in South Africa was the separation of the races as far as possible in all spheres of life, including living areas. The inner precincts of towns and cities were set aside as white residential areas while the rest of the population was confined to townships on the fringes of the white areas. Township residents had to commute daily to the white towns and cities for work – often a long and arduous journey. Township facilities and services were limited as the apartheid government concentrated on the development and maintenance of white areas. Despite immense hardships township residents managed to develop a strong community spirit and an unparalleled township vibe.
Post 1994 successive South African governments have redirected state resources to improving the lot of township residents – a massive undertaking. ‘Outsiders’ generally have a negative perception of our townships – squalor, poverty, crime, etc. Whilst undoubtedly conditions and circumstances in many townships are not ideal, residents cheerfully and optimistically carry on the business of daily living. Penny and Ella teamed up to showcase to these ‘outsiders’ the very essence of township life – and so Emzini Tours was born.
Knysna Township shares many similarities with other townships nationwide and Emzini conducts 3 hour guided trips, introducing tourists to the vibrancy, culture, philosophy, community and way of life of the township. Ella, articulate, outgoing and optimistic, introduces her clients to various facets of township life such as the Rastafarian community, local small businesses, a pre-school and even a shebeen (local pub)! Clients have the option of having their hair braided by a local hairdresser. Penny, armed with a packet of dog pellets, generously supplies some nourishment to some of the many underfed township dogs at each stop.
An absolute highlight of Emzini’s tour is a visit to Ella’s house in Concordia, a township neighbourhood. Emzini in Xhosa translates into ‘home’, a fitting tribute to both these inspirational women. Ella and Penny have turned Ella’s home into a haven for abused/abandoned kids. Besides giving these kids a loving and caring home, they have started a soup kitchen for township kids and both a counselling centre and safe house for abused and battered women. Emzini clients are treated to a drum display accompanied by wonderful Xhosa singing whilst at Ella’s house. Altogether a very uplifting experience.
Kudos to Ella and Penny for their remarkable efforts at uplifting the township community and giving the more fortunate members of society an insight into township life. A definite must do for all Bamboo guests.
Visit http://www.emzinitours.co.za for further details.