Winning life’s battle

2009-09-12 00:00

TOUR guide Joseph Bonokwakhe ­Ndima knows KwaZulu-Natal’s battlefields like the back of his hand.

Ndima, who was trained by the late David Rattray, is known for keeping tour groups to Isandlwana battlefields spellbound by his tales of Zulu warriors and redcoat soldiers.

With his booming voice and variety of facial expressions, Ndima knows every detail of the battles and no question stumps this battlefield expert.

The humble Ndima told Weekend Witness that his journey as a battlefield guide began in 2006 when he got into a government learnership programme aimed at uplifting local people.

He was lectured by historians from universities around South Africa and travelled extensively as part of the learnership.

“It was great being taught by these experts. I loved the travelling too as it gave me an opportunity to learn more about this country,” he said.

Once the learnership was over, ­Ndima was lucky enough to secure a job as a guide at Fugitives’ Drift, the luxury lodge owned by Rattray.

He spent two years training under Rattray and he developed a close bond with the world-famous historian.

“David taught me everything I know. He treated me like a brother and being able to learn from him was amazing. His death shattered my world,” he said.

Even though Ndima conducts hundreds of tours each year, he never loses enthusiasm for his job; each tour is fresh and as informative as the last.

“Every tour is special to me. Having a different audience each time helps me stay fresh so that I can give each group a great experience when we are out at the battlefields,” he said.

Ndima has left such a mark on some tourists that they return to listen to more tales about the battlefields, something that makes this special tourist guide extremely happy.

“Those who come back ask more questions and love to hear the stories. That makes me happy because I learn something new too,” he added.

He has also had family members of redcoat soldiers visit the area to learn more about the battles that claimed their relatives.

The recent tourism campaign by MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Michael Mabayakhulu, to create more awareness of the battlefields and its tourism potential has excited Ndima.

“I’m happy with the MEC taking the decision to promote this area. It’s a special place that has lots to offer both international and local tourists,” Ndima said.

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