MANDELA DAY is celebrated on 18 July every year. In 2020, when disadvantaged communities across the world are disproportionately affected by the spread and economic effects of COVID-19, Mandela Day is a call to action to join together as active members of a collective society to positively transform our world for the better.
Isaiah, thanks so much for joining us on this special day. Tell us what drove your passion for wildlife and this field of work?
“My passion started back when I was still attending primary school because I grew up on a farm where my parents were working. At first, I thought well it’s not something that I will pursue but instead, my interest grew more and more until I became in love with it. After I finished high school I went straight for my guiding course, which then took me to Mabula. Since then I’ve loved what I have been doing and Mabula has been my home ever since then.”
So when did you join Mabula?
“Hmmm I started at Mabula all the way back in 2006. I started as what used to be known as a “trainee guide”, which is basically where you start at the bottom once you complete your guiding course. After the in-house training, once you work hard enough, you get promoted to an “intermediate guide”. Based on your guest comments and your passion for what you do, you can get promoted to a senior guide. After I became senior guide, I later became the head guide. I became the Wildlife Safari Manager. Now, I’ve moved to the Reserve management side of the business where I am currently the Reserve Manger of the Lake Kyle side of the Reserve. At this stage I feel like I’m part and parcel—almost like the furniture of—Mabula!” [Laughs]
How do you think the Safari Industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and the lockdown?
“Very badly. The whole tourism industry has been very badly affected. The Safari industry in particular is what brings people out to the bush. The main thing that people want when they come to Mabula is to be out in the field and to enjoy the animals and the game viewing. That has also affected a lot of us. Luckily, while I’m still on duty because I’m on the Reserve management side of the things, the fellow guides that work for Mabula have been affected a lot. You can see when you talk to them—you can hear—that they miss the bush and they miss what they used to do. If it carries on like this with no openings [of the lockdown], I’m afraid that a lot people are going to lose their jobs—and they’re already losing them.”
What is the Community’s Role in Protecting Wildlife?
“I think the most important thing is to teach the community, because if the community doesn’t have the knowledge, they won’t protect the wildlife. I remember that, especially in the local communities, most people grow up seeing wildlife as another meat for them. It is our duty to make sure that we teach them about the value of wildlife and make sure that they learn about it. In fact, before Covid-19, we started a project where during special days—like Mandela day—we would invite the local schools to Mabula to give them educational tours so that they can learn about wildlife conservation. Then, when they go back to their parents and their communities, they could open their eyes to show how important wildlife is— more than just being meat— but its value in bringing tourists and growing our economy.”
The Theme for this year’s Mandela Day is #actionagainstpoverty. What do you think our industry is doing to tackle this challenge?
“I think that the industry is doing a lot because most of the people who are employed in the industry come from the local communities. These are people who really need those jobs, and they tremendously benefit from the industry as well. If you look at Mabula itself, the majority of the people who work here come from the local communities of the area. Few of them are those who come from far away because there haven’t been the skills for those jobs, but we have also started a project where we get people from the local community to train them as qualified guides who then become part of the Mabula family. We have started with four trainees at the moment. In that way, the community can see that the company is doing something for them. Tour groups who visit Mabula also visit the local communities and donate as well as also help build/renovate schools. That is also very important for the community because they can see that the industry as a whole is also doing good for the community. The more we do this, the more support we get from the community to protect our wildlife areas.”
Lastly, how do you think young people can honour the legacy of Madiba in our industry?
“I think that the most important thing is to teach them about nature. Teaching goes beyond books and education, but actually bringing them to nature so that they learn by being in the fields themselves. When you are physically involved, it’s a different learning experience and you can see the importance of that work better by actually being a part of it. Currently, from the way I see it, there is not much awareness within the youth of our local communities. It is very important to create long-term awareness. The more we get involved with the youth, the more awareness we can create by ensuring that it lasts. Unfortunately, we can’t bring any schools this year because of COVID-19, but it’s something that we do every year—to bring the youth to the fields to get them actively and physically involved with our work. The end result is that the people who live here in the local communities are very happy, and they have learnt a lot from the Reserve. In that way you can contribute a lot.”