Unlike many of the well-known hotels in Port Elizabeth, the exact origins of the vuvuzela remain shrouded in mystery. A local Tembisa man, Freddie “Saddam” Maake, however, claimed that the instrument seen at matches is modelled on a prototype developed by him in 1965. Moreover, Maake argues, without proper legal backing and necessary resources, his legitimate claim to share in the profits generated by the mass proliferation of the instrument remain unheard.
It is without doubt that if Maake’s story is true, and on face value he does seem to have a very good case, he is truly a victim of exploitation. Maake is an authentic fanatic: this fact is made indubitable by the way that Kaizer Chiefs memorabilia pervades almost every aspect of his Tembisa home, starting at the gate which proudly hangs a Kaizer Chiefs flag. Inside the house, Maake’s living room, in Phathisani Moyo’s words,
…resembles a football museum, dominated by Amakhosi artefacts, which included more than 200 helmets, known as amakaraba, all types of vuvuzelas, flags, scarves, posters and pictures. Even his giant flat-screen television beamed the 1988 Bob Save final between Orlando Pirates and Chiefs.
Surely Maake has a right to be angry considering he played a central role in the rise of the vuvuzela as a symbol of South Africa’s presence on the world stage. Maake can produce photographic evidence of himself holding an aluminium vuvuzela made from the horn of a bicycle from as early as the 1970s.
The history of the Maake-vuvuzela relationship gets even more interesting: this is to say that Maake suffered having his instrument banned from stadiums after officials saw it as a potential weapon (he confesses that he used it as such in scuffles with rival fans), was held in custody after refusing to leave it behind when flying to Zimbabwe in 1992 (after SA was readmitted to international competition), and actually took it with him to France during the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The man has all of this history documented in photographs, and, further, claims to have colluded with Masincedane Plastics in the manufacturing of the vuvuzela out of plastic (thereby diminishing the chances that it could be used as a weapon at football matches).
His primary qualm is that whereas Masincedane Plastics benefitted from selling large amounts of the instrument during the world cup, he was left completely out of the fray.
The story of the plastic vuvuzela started as early as 1989 when Maake met Peter Rich who lent a helping hand. Rich’s vuvuzela was, however, a bit too short for Maake’s liking. In 1999, the vuvuzela and soccer fanatic teamed up with Masincedane Plastics to produce the device, and Maake attempted to market his instrument by releasing a CD named “Vuvuzela Cellular” which prominently features the horn as a musical instrument.
Today Maake survives mostly by living off the proceeds of his CD which he sells at soccer matches. He has nine sons and feels that the South African legal system has failed to protect him from being exploited by those with greater stores of wealth. Perhaps, somewhat ironically, the story behind the vuvuzela is also a symbol of an unfortunate truth about South Africa: in too many instances, the might of capital trumps fairness and justice.