Calabash Tours staff…

Mongezi Lumka (Monga), a previous teacher, has been with Calabash for more than a decade now. Born and bred in PE’s oldest township Red Location, he’s passionate about making the townships’ past and present accessible for tourists: “Most tourists think townships are about poverty, but there is a life there. Township is about human spirit and hope and there are now even millionaires living there because they decided to stay.” He really lives this hope and loves referring to his personal hero Nelson Mandela, who said that your conditions and background must not determine your achievements. Monga is not only a dedicated tour guide, but also provides admin support to make sure Calabash Tours’ back office is running smoothly.

Monga’s biggest passion is managing Red Location’s football club and training hopeful talents after he retired from actively playing. Additionally, he’s involved in numerous committee structures and a highly coveted advisor when it comes to community matters in Red Location.

Xolani Makhalima joined Calabash in 2009 from a sales representative role as a driver and is now a fully qualified tour guide. Born and educated in the friendly city of Port Elizabeth, it’s no surprise that the part he enjoys most about his job is meeting people from different backgrounds. “This job is full of fun and I learn a lot about various cultures while changing peoples’ perception about our people and culture. We provide an authentic experience on our tours, which helps visitors to understand what townships are about.”

A passionate father and music lover, Xolani also enjoys watching football and cricket and is your best bet if you are up for discussing the latest match results.

Nelson Sebezela has been instrumental in developing the tourist experience in the townships just after Calabash started. Born and raised in Kwazakhele Township, Port Elizabeth, Nelson finds it very rewarding to “change people’s perception that townships are a no-go area by informing them about my country and township life. This is a wonderful company to be part of. Not only do we get to explain and expose our culture, we also assist the people from our townships”.  It’s the positive cultural and educational exchange between local people and tourists that Nelson cares about, which creates the opportunity for peace and friendliness and nourishes a sense of community across ethical and geographical borders. Debating current political and social issues is one of Nelson’s favourite past time, so don’t be shy to ask your burning questions. Above all, Nelson is known for his good sense of humour and his passion for soccer and rugby.

Thandi Miedema is running Calabash Tours behind the scenes by taking care of the financial side of the business. Originally from Johannesburg, she is now a passionate PE resident who loves living and working in this vibrant, friendly city. A previous Psychology teacher, Thandi finds it very rewarding that Calabash’s  work is having a positive impact on local livelihoods and that benefits trickle down to local communities.

Thandi’s passion are her family and she loves all things creative such as baking and painting. She’s practicing Yoga whenever possible in her busy schedule to relax and re-energise.

Paul Miedema, born and bred in PE, is the driving force behind the Calabash project as the very hands-on director of Calabash Tours and Trust. A social science graduate from the local university, Paul is passionate about PE, and especially its social, cultural and political history. “I had experiences of the townships during the Apartheid years, and as a white South African have learnt more about life in the townships as opposed to any school or university. In 1990 I had the opportunity to participate in The March for Hope, a protest March of White people to the townships. We were about 1000 white people, and were met in the townships by more than 100 000 township residents lining the streets to welcome us. I knew then, and still maintain, there is an energy and spirit in the townships that is life changing. I just want to share that with as many people as possible.”  

The most rewarding aspects of his work for Paul are being able to facilitate meaningful and sustainable interpersonal relationships with communities through the tours and volunteer programmes. “Seeing how township kids respond to our volunteers motivates me a lot. I hope that our work enables people to flourish in their own space and to create interconnectedness between people from different backgrounds. When this magical connection happens, it’s unstoppable. People continue to surprise me in a positive way, that keeps me going.”

Paul loves spending time with his family and friends, which often involves cooking or making a braai, a typical South African BBQ. 

Calabash Trust staff…

Carla Collins holds a MA in Anthropology and is the Trust’s Community Development Manager, a role which enables her to combine her interest in different cultures and passion for working with communities. Carla believes that “a holistic approach that includes peoples’ mind, body and spirit is key to empower and unlock potential of people to drive their own development.  It’s extremely rewarding to see a shift in confidence which mobilises people and enables them to become pro-active through the work we are doing.

Seeing things grow and being active is what Carla cares about in her free time too. She’s happiest when outdoors, be it on the surf-board, hiking in forests or swimming. A keen environmentalist, Carla is also interested in indigenous knowledge and practices and how we can apply them for sustainable development.

Calabash Trust is in the process of interviewing for a new administrative position – we will keep you updated…

Our pool of associates, who work on a part-time or project basis, include:

Bukelwa Gongxeka started at Calabash in 2006 as an Administrator. Over the years, she discovered her passion for finance and accounting, something she would never have thought about as a career before. What she likes most about her role as the Finance and Office Manager of Calabash Trust is liaising with national and international private and corporate donors “because we work in a transparent and accountable way, many donors have been supporting us for years. It’s important for us to maintain an honest relationship with our projects and donors and I love seeing how communities flourish because of the work we are doing.” Bukelwa’s story reflects part of the work Calabash is doing “I came from nowhere, look where I am today! Now I change people’s lives for example by training treasurers in schools on how to use Excel and keeping their records up to date, which gives them a tremendous amount of confidence and empowerment. Sharing knowledge is our most important mission, and I am proud to be able to report to donors exactly on what their money was spent.

After work, Bukelwa loves spending time with her family and enjoys socialising with friends from all walks of life.

Recently Buki found another full-time job at another company, and is working on Calabash finances part-time as an associate.

Alhyrian Laue, founder of TRY Ecosystems,  is an accredited Permaculture Designer (2011, Berg-en-dal, artist (B.Tech Fine Art cum laude, NMMU 2009; top 5 Le Atelier 2008; Sasol Signatures winner 2009) and in the final stages of becoming an accredited Mindfulness Trainer (

He has effectively applied this diverse and complementary skill set to the design and successful implementation of Permaculture projects at the W B Tshume and Emsomncane Schools in the Kwazzkhele Township outside Port Elizabeth. He has spent time learning about indigenous medicinal plants including spending some time learning with an Inyanga (Tradition Herbal Healer) near Hamburg, Eastern Cape.

He recently (2012) completed a short course on effective water management, presented by ELRC (Environmental Learning and Research Center) Rhodes University, sponsored by the WRC (Water Research Commission). He is trained in preparing and using EM (Effective Microorganisms) for use as soil conditioner and in bio-remediation. He has also completed (2012) the Asset Based community Development course presented by Ikhala Trust.

Hugh Laue, also part of TRY Ecosystems, is Alhyrian’s father, who has assisted on all our permaculture projects to date. Hugh is a highly trained physical scientist with over 30 years (1968 – 2002) of academic teaching (author or co-author of 19  research publications) and industrial R&D experience  covering a large variety of commodity and specialty chemical products and processes. He holds a Management Advancement Programme  Certificate (Wits Business School, 1986) and a Management of Technology Certificate (UCT, 1990).

In 2002 he co-founded Chemin (The South African Chemical Technology Incubator) where he served from 2002, first as CTO and then CEO, until his retirement in 2008. He developed  a Stage Gate Technology Design and Commercialization methodology used in helping clients to increase their  probability of success and minimizes risk and cost of failure. The basics of this methodology were adapted by other incubators in the DTI’s SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency) stable. During this period he learnt and applied business development skills including financial modeling. In 2004 he was responsible for undertaking a feasibility study on Bioethanol from maize production for GrainSA.

It was during the Bioethanol study that he became aware of the precariousness (and unsustainability) of the neo-classical economic growth paradigm in the light of peak oil, climate change, water scarcity, resource depletion and exponential population growth. He is one of about 1500 international sustainability experts regularly invited to contribute to the  GlobeScan/Sustainability surveys..

His exposure to Permaculture Design Ethics and Principles has been through his son, Alhyrian, and he is now engaged in assisting him in his work with Calabash Trust in implementing community Permaculture  food security and human development projects. He has also completed the ABCD course.

Xolisa Ngubelanga and Simpiwe Kaya are new associates who we will be working with next year – more information about them to follow…