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LaGuGu changes township tour game

Sep 30 2014 15:03
Liziwe Ndalana

Cape Town - The journey begins at the Red Bus Sightseeing offices in Long Street, Cape Town and we hop on a red quantum bus with LaGuGu scribbled all over it.

As soon as we get on the bus, the “narrative” starts. Mike Zuma, the tour guide, introduces himself and says with a chuckle: “I’m not related to the president” and we all laugh. We drive through Strand Street and Zuma gives us the history of the Castle of Good Hope and Civic Centre. He keeps us in stitches as he imitates different accents, including the gaatjies (taxi guards).

This is only the start of the adventure promised by LaGuGu Tours for journalists attending the Cape Town launch.

With this launch of his township tours, entrepreneur Kgomotso Pooe has extended his tourism empire to Cape Town from humble beginnings in Johannesburg. LaGuGu is an acronym for Cape Town's Langa and Gugulethu townships.

Pooe's meteoric rise in the tourism industry started in 2010 in Johannesburg, with the vision of bringing quad bikes to Soweto. He turned a patch of grass at a derelict power station into what it is today - just one part of his growing tourism empire.

Pooe first tested the waters for a hop-on-hop-off township tour service in Johannesburg with the launch of SoWeToo Tours in May last year. The numbers speak for themselves: "In our first month we serviced 92 passengers, now we exceed 800 tourists a month.

"The number of employees has since grown to 30 in Johannesburg," says Pooe, who aims to replicate this success in Cape Town.

"When we started alongside City Sightseeing Johannesburg we only had one bus; today we have three mini buses running SoWeToo and an additional three for LaGuGu."

Back on the LaGuGu bus, the real narrative begins as we reach Vanguard Drive, flanked by Bonteheuwel and Langa on the left. The people living in these townships were segregated and allocated housing according to their skin colour.

The infamous pencil test

“In the olden days, they'd put a pencil through your hair. If it slid through, you’d be housed on the right (Bonteheuwel), but if it got stuck they would put you on the left side of the road (in Langa)," Zuma says.

The pencil test was to check whether you were, by the apartheid regime's standards, coloured or black - and this is how Langa became a township for blacks and Bonteheuwel one for coloureds.

Pencil test (South Africa)

Our first stop in Langa is the LaGuGu headquarters, an old school building opposite Langa Tag, a block of houses which has been turned into an art gallery.

We then move to Guga S’thebe arts and cultural centre, which boasts an array of crafters with stalls of different kinds of jewellery and ceramics - a good chance to mingle and chat with the artists.

Stops include ceramic artist Sandile Mdekazi of Sandile Mosaics and Naledi arts and craft centre, where cups, bowls and home decor items are made.

LaGuGu_Tours
A Naledi artist puts final touch-ups on ceramics before they are glazed to bring out the finished product.

Pooe previously spent five years living in Cape Town so was able to plan the route, which includes the Langa Heritage Museum, singer Brenda Fassie’s house, Sobukwe Square, the N2 Gateway Project, the Amy Biehl memorial and Mzoli’s restaurant.

At the late singer's home, the LaGuGu team start dancing while singing the Fassie's iconic song, Vulindlela.

Mecca of tourism

Pooe says that moving to Cape Town was a natural process for him. "If you can get Cape Town right, you can get everything right because Cape Town is the Mecca of tourism.

"People warned us that we would never make it in Cape Town, but we silenced the naysayers and proved them wrong," says Pooe.

What makes LaGuGu different from other township tours is that the team "live out" the historical events that took place at the sites on the tour agenda.

For instance at Sobukhwe Square, another historical monument in the area, the LaGuGu team starts singing, while doing a gumboot dance. Locals watch in amazement and pride.

“A township tour needs some history and heritage. Langa is one of the oldest townships in South Africa after Alexandra. The Pass March started here, and that's why I was drawn to Langa rather than Khayelitsha.

"People think townships are about poverty, but there's more to townships than shacks and poverty. People are becoming more affluent, but have a connection with their roots, so they remain in the townships," says Pooe. 

Last year Pooe was featured in the Hansa Pilsener Cheers to the Dreamers campaign as one of their Dreamers - entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to make their dreams come true.

Watch:

Interestingly, Pooe’s first official job was in tourism, as a flight attendant for South African Airways. He has now come full circle and returned to the industry.

When he came to Cape Town, Pooe placed his mother and brother in charge of the Gauteng arm of the business.

“This is an opportunistic gateway for my own progression. Hansa gave me a national platform to communicate with a greater market, so that people around the country know who Kgomotso Pooe is. It all started with a dream of having a tourism business in Soweto, and now I have one in Cape Town too.”

To other dreamers, Pooe says: "Naysayers will take you nowhere, but take that first step and follow your passion."

Looking for a real township experience? This tour is different from any other - it is lively story-telling, lived out by the LaGuGu team.

The tour is rounded off with a lunch at popular Tshisa Nyama Mzoli's in Gugulethu. A truly life-changing experience.

 - Fin24

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