Langa, Western Cape
Did you know?
Langa was one of the main 'flashpoint townships' during the anti-apartheid riots of 1976.
Langa, Cape Town's oldest township, means 'sun' in isiXhosa. However, the large and diverse settlement established in 1923 was actually named after Langalibelele, rebel chief of the amaHlubi, who was sent to Robben Island by the British authorities in 1873. His name means 'the sun is boiling hot'.
A township tour of Langa – about 13km or about 20 minutes' drive from the centre of Cape Town – is normally a half-day venture during which visitors see many sides of township life. The various elements of Langa housing – the singles' quarters for migrant workers, the new family apartments and the shacklands – each track a section of history from the days before official apartheid began in 1948, through apartheid, to the post-1994 era of democracy.
Even though the outward appearance of the informal settlements – the so-called squatter camps – might appear shockingly tawdry, you should ask your guide to organise an invitation to enter one of the dwellings, where you will invariably come upon a neat, ordered little place of reduced circumstances.
Apart from the usual slew of shebeens and 'spaza' shops (small stalls) selling anything from bars of soap to packages of chicken heads and feet (affectionately called 'walkie talkies'), your township tour might include a visit to a youth centre, an HIV/AIDS clinic, a community centre, a pre-school and a craft market.
Make a stop at Guga Sthebe Arts & Cultural Centre – you won't miss the brightly coloured building situated on Washington Street. The centre helps to upskill local residents with skills in arts and craft, pottery, metalworks and theatre. Regular shows are put on and visitors are encouraged to support performances of dance, music and poetry, and to purchase locally-made goods from the shop.
A Langa 'shining star' is the late Brenda Fassie, South Africa's outrageous and beloved queen of pop, who began her career when she was four years old, heading up a singing group called The Tiny Tots. Known as the ‘Madonna of the Townships', Brenda Fassie was laid to rest back in Langa after her untimely death in May, 2004. She was only 39.
A place well worth visiting in the Langa township is the Eziko Restaurant and Cooking School, where you can learn to cook 'township specials' like chakalaka (spicy vegetable relish), samp (an African specialty made from pounded corn) and beans, and various maize porridge dishes.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Town Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 487 6800
How to get here
Your guide will pick you up at your lodgings.
Tours to do
Cape Town Tourism will advise on the right tour guide.
Always go with a guide in his/her vehicle.
What will it cost
Anything from R350 to R500 a person, depending on the length of your visit.
Length of stay
Half-day, full day or overnight stay in an accredited b&b.
What to pack
Light day pack (with water) and good walking shoes.