Martial artist and stunt performer Munifa Canterbury compares her work as a Cape Town Tourism safety ambassador with being in a movie.
“We are up and down trying to keep tourists safe. One minute we are chatting to tourists, and the next we are helping police catch criminals. It’s very exciting and rewarding,” she says.
Munifa is from Bo-Kaap, “I was born in St Monica’s Home and went to school here as well. Bo-Kaap is my home.”
Munifa developed an interest in martial arts when she was 9-years-old.
“I had chest problems as a child and the doctor advised me to do something active. I enrolled myself into martial arts and this helped with my chest.”
However, she had difficulty competing because of her weak eyesight.
“I decided that I would train on my own so I trained daily wherever I could. I then won Western Cape Province champion when I was 14 years old, competing under 16. I also competed against SAPS and won a gold medal. That was a major achievement for me.”
She says while martial arts is a hobby for her, she excelled and soon got her South African colours, and competed in America where she came second twice.
She currently holds the titles of national grand champion of the National Martial Association and the all African champion in Kata.
She is also the general secretary of the Karate Association of the Western Cape.
Munifa took a gap year after school to teach karate before she did religious studies at Islamic College of Southern Africa, and then acting at City Varsity.
“Everywhere I went, karate kept coming up. I taught at home and opened my own club. I now teach the community at the civic centre in Bo-Kaap. I also used to take the bus to Manenberg once a week to teach the children there, but because of gang-violence, they now have to come to the civic centre.”
Munifa is also a freelance stunt performer.
She got involved with Cape Town Tourism when she taught self defence to the women in the community, and the Bo-Kaap Civic Association recommended her for the position of a safety ambassador. “One of the problems is that all the things I do is voluntary, except for private lessons, so I had no balance.
“My main focus was to share my knowledge, but I also needed to put food on the table at home, so being a safety ambassador has helped me do what I love, and I earn an income.”
As a safety ambassador, her and her team’s duties are to educate the tourists about safety and tell them about the dangers of the area and where not to walk, and escort them should they feel unsafe.”
Munifa is team leader to six Cape Town Tourism safety ambassadors who work mainly in the Bo-Kaap area, although she moves around to wherever she is needed.
One of the highlights of her work as a safety ambassador was when she and her team helped the police with the arrest of a 10-man ATM fraud syndicate.
“This was my first encounter with criminals of such a calibre. We got to know the cars and how they operate and notified SAPS. It was straight out of a movie.
“I have received many threats from the syndicate but little scares me.”
Munifa says her work is like a movie. It’s so exciting – there is always something happening. Lots of people say I must write a book, but I think I’m going to do the movie first.”