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Experiencing the Townships in South Africa 
At the turn of the 20th century racial segregation became prominent in South Africa and the history of community removals and marginalisation had begun. In 1966 an apartheid government declared valuable urban areas “whites only” areas and all people of colour were forcibly removed from their homes to the barren low-lying outer areas of the cities, their homes bulldozed to the ground.

The low-lying outer areas are now known as the townships and in Cape Town particularly, the Cape Flats. A very popular activity for international tourists to South Africa is a guided township tour. The desire to learn how the different communities live, to meet the people and to learn of South Africa’s history is of great interest to them.



As a resident Capetonian from the “other side” of town, I decided it was time I ventured out of the comforts of my home environment into the townships of the Cape Flats. You must understand that this is not a common thing for a white South African to do. The perception of the townships is that they are dangerous, areas where violent crime takes place and where white faces are not welcome. Well, for the most part, this is a huge misperception.



African Eagle Day Tours escorted me on a half-day guided tour, which incorporated a visit to the District Six Museum, Langa and Khayelitsha. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994 (when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa), works with the memories of the communities that used to live in District 6 and with the history of forced removals more generally. This allows a deeper understanding of the people and of the townships you visit on the tour. Langa and Khayelitsha are two of the older townships on the Cape Flats.

Our tour guide, Songs, a wonderful quiet natured Xhosa gentleman who lives in the Langa Township, accompanied us. Songezo, his full name, in Xhosa means late addition, being the last child of his family. Songs introduced us to another side of Cape Town.



An eye-opening stroll through the littered streets laced with the smell of barbequed sheep’s head, had me captivated (the insides a delicacy enjoyed by the locals). Small children decently dressed playing a cheerful, lively game of soccer; colourful, neatly assembled corrugated iron shacks with communal ablution facilities and water points and a mass of loose electrical wires running between homes and electrical points, any electrician’s nightmare! Most of all, what I noticed was the friendliness and welcoming attitude of the people. We attracted many young children who posed eagerly for photographs wanting in return to see themselves in the digital photo. During South Africa’s progression to democracy, the communities have learned to welcome tourists as they realise that tourism is a good form of income for the communities as a whole. African Eagle Day Tours, merged with Grassroute Tours, is a Black Economic Empowerment company that offers informative township tours and cultural experiences in a non-invasive sustainable way, bringing benefits to the communities it visits.



Almost all of the communities of the Cape Flats remain, to one degree or another, poverty stricken. A wide range of community empowerment organisations work non-violently to combat poverty, crime and health problems and the role of civil society in many parts of the area is relatively strong.

Wonderfully creative business developments can be found the in townships. Vicky’s B&B in Khayelitsha, included on the itinerary for the township tour, is a homely colourful engaging overnight stop for travellers from all over the world. This offers the opportunity to live in the townships and really feel the vibe!

Mzoli’s Place in Gugulethu is another great example of a creative business blossoming out the townships. Mzoli’s is actually a butchery but has been expanded to include a pub next door where one can enjoy a couple of cold ones with the locals while feasting on some deliciously braaied (barbequed) meat. Its festive, its lively, its likely to have you partying until late! I was delighted to experience Mzoli’s on the evening that Bafana Bafana played France in the FIFA World Cup Soccer. What a magnificent vibe there was! What cameraderie and passion for South Africa! A truly memorable experience!

Visiting the townships is a wonderful eye opening experience allowing you to more fully and tangibly grasp South Africa and her people. I happily recommend it!

Brought to you by Africa Tamed
Your southern Africa Travel Specialists!

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