World Cup stadium-owning tribe offers homestays
JOHANNESBURG – Cynthia and Philomen Rakgoale hope to teach World Cup visitors a little bit about the Tswana language, starting with "dumela" — so much more welcoming than a simple "hello."
"Greetings are very important in South Africa," said Cynthia Rakgoale. "It's in our culture. We smile at people. Even if we don't know you, we talk to you."
The Rakgoales are part of a network of hosts who will be welcoming tourists into their homes in a program organized by the Bafokeng tribe, which owns a stadium in the World Cup host city Rustenberg.
The Bafokeng homestay program is just one of a number of unusual attractions — from jumping off Table Mountain to historic sites in Soweto — that World Cup visitors might consider adding to their itineraries.
Those who take part in a Bafokeng homestay will learn a little about the history of the tribe. In the late 19th century, the Bafokeng king, Kgosi Mokgatle Mokgatle, sent his men to the nearby Kimberly diamond mines to earn cash to secure title to traditional Bafokeng land. The kgosi's foresight helped the Bafokeng maintain a sense of identity and a measure of independence during the apartheid years. The title to the land was held in trust by sympathetic German missionaries at a time when blacks were not allowed to own land.
An old mission church stands near the Rakgoales' home in Phokeng, the main Bafokeng village, which is a short drive from the Rustenberg stadium.
"This is the house that I grew up in," Philemon Rakgoale said of the low-slung, three-bedroom brick and stucco house surrounded by fruit and silver oak trees. "My father built this house in 1967."
A cabinet built by his late father, an arts and craft teacher, sits in one of the rooms guests will use. In the 1940s, the elder Rakgoale was among the founders of Bafokeng High School, one of the first such institutions for black South Africans. The son owns a construction company that renovated the high school to serve as a welcome center for World Cup fans.
Cynthia Rakgoale, an avid cook who turns bananas from her garden into bread, promises to take her guests through the slow process of preparing a staple from her region, sour pap.
First, a mixture of cornmeal and water is left to ferment for a few days, sometimes with a chunk of potato added to speed the process. Then, patiently, spoon by spoon, the soured mixture is added to a pot of boiling water. When the pap is the consistency of oatmeal, it's ready to be served for breakfast with sugar, or for supper alongside morogo — wild greens — or tripe stew.
For those looking for a faster but no less friendly pace, the bright lights of Johannesburg are a 90-minute drive from Phokeng.
Johannesburg has fine restaurants and contemporary African art galleries, markets for curio lovers, and clubs where you can hear the latest kwaito, sometimes known as South African hip hop.
If you're wondering what to wear to the clubs, stop at Rosebank Mall in northern Johannesburg, where shops in an area known as the Zone specialize in the wares of young, trendy South African designers.
"I've always known that whatever I'm looking for, I can find in Joburg," said Pfadzani Exodus, who named both her shop and herself after the Bob Marley song, saying it was in celebration of the movement of South Africa's people from apartheid to freedom.
Exodus' collection includes T-shirts featuring the politicians and artists she believes are shaping the new South Africa, along with loosely crocheted sweaters and dresses and men's jackets with paisley lapels. She has a penchant for ruffles and shimmering fabrics.
"It's for people who are open-minded," she said. "They don't care that other people think. They just want to walk in and grab the spotlight."
That's the attitude you need for the clubs in and around Rosebank, Exodus said. She added the vibe is more laid back in Soweto, where hangouts are likely to be neighborhood taverns.
She recommends tourists try a meal at a kwashisanyama. That's a butcher shop where you can buy a steak, have it grilled on a barbecue set up on the sidewalk and served with a heap of pap. Look for the kwashisanyama with the longest line of hungry customers.
Also in Soweto you'll find several sites that trace South Africa's transition from white minority rule to democracy. Soweto's Vilakazi Street has been the address of two Nobel peace laureates — retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who still occasionally visits his Vilakazi Street home, and Nelson Mandela. Mandela returned to No. 8115 Vilakazi St. after 27 years in prison; the house is now a tiny museum.
Nearby, the brick-and-glass Hector Pieterson Museum is dedicated to the 1976 Soweto uprising and overlooks the site where 13-year-old Pieterson was shot and killed by police during the unrest. A photograph of a dying Pieterson carried in the arms of another young Sowetan remains a symbol of apartheid's brutality.
Elsewhere in the country, for visitors looking for a physical thrill, how about stepping backward off Table Mountain, Cape Town's 3,563-foot icon?
Abseil Africa will outfit you with helmet and gloves, strap you to ropes and send you off the side for a drop of just over 300 feet.
"It's quite an unnerving feeling as you step off the mountain," said Gareth Gibson, master of understatement and Abseil Africa's 27-year-old lead instructor. "It's a great angle to see Cape Town from. It will definitely get your heart racing."
If You Go...
BAFOKENG HOMESTAYS: http://www.bafokeng.com/2010/accommodation. Located in Phokeng, 90 minutes' drive from Johannesburg. Homestay prices range from $53-92, depending on the arrangements (400-700 South African rand).
OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS: http://www.room2010.co.za
ROSEBANK MALL: Located in Northern Johannesburg, http://www.thezoneatrosebank.co.za.
SOWETO MUSEUMS: Mandela House, http://www.mandelahouse.com or 8115 Vilakazi. Hector Pieterson Museum, 8288 Maseko St.
TABLE TOP MOUNTAIN DROP: http://www.abseilafrica.co.za. About $79 per person (595 South African rand).
Associated Press Writer Nastasya Tay in Cape Town contributed to this report.