Experience the day-to-day life of Mdantsane, taste home-brewed beer in a tavern, visit a traditional healer and local apartheid memorials, or walk in Steve Biko's footsteps. This Eastern Cape township is rich in history, but also has a rhythmic heartbeat that's best enjoyed at one of many rousing live music venues.

Did you know?

There are plans to build a dedicated boxing museum to honour Mdantsane's boxing greats. 

The Eastern Cape township of Mdantsane is located in a threshold area between East London and King William's Town, in arguably the country's most ecologically pristine province. Vast tracts of virgin land cover much of the Eastern Cape Province, with most of its coastal land proving lush and impenetrable.

It was in this province that South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela, fondly known as Madiba, was born and raised. Mdantsane itself was home to political stalwarts such as Thozamile Gqweta, Ntombazana Gertrude Botha, Mlamli Ondala and Bangumzi Sifingo.

The original inhabitants of Mdantsane were indigenous people who were forcibly removed from East London's multiracial suburbs in the 1960s during the height of apartheid. A dearth of employment followed, since the nearest city was too far to traverse by foot, and public transport was too expensive for most.

Unemployed youngsters formed gangs and roamed the streets, so it comes as no surprise that Mdantsane spawned a clutch of strapping world-champion boxers – Vuyani Bungu, Nkosana Happyboy Mgzaji, Welcome Ncita and Nkosinathi Joyi.

Today Mdantsane township is a vibrant, sprawling township that's home to 150 000, but it's place in history has not been forgotten. Visit the memorial to the 1983 Bus Boycott Massacre at Ergeton Station, or drink in some ubuntu (humanity) at the Mdantsane Arts Centre, a community project that teaches the youth different artistic skills.

Tourists can also experience the township's twilight, by visiting Mdantsane's first dedicated sports bar, the Cornerstone Tavern in NU9. Down a few umqombithis (traditional African home-brewed beer) and hobnob with animated locals.

The multi-million Rand Mdantsane City Shopping Centre draws shoppers to the heart of the township. After a hard day's shopping, why not sample true local hospitality by spending a night at a local bed and breakfast.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Imonti Tours
Tel: +27 (0)83 487 8975
Email: info@imontitours.co.za

Tumie's Bed & Breakfast
Tel: +27 (0)43 762 3398

How to get here

Take a township tour from East London with any number of tour operators in the area.

Best time to visit

The Eastern Cape is ideal in summer – December to February.

Around the area

A city tour of East London's historical sites, including the East London Museum, will keep you fascinated for a whole day.

Tours to do

A few East London tour operators take tours to Mdantsane. Take your pick. One of the top operators is Velile Ndlumbini from Imonti Tours - see Contacts for his details.

Get around

Your tour guide, normally a resident of the township, will show you around.

What will it cost

Approximately R350 per person.

Length of stay

A Mdantsane township tour typically lasts about four hours, including lunch, but you can tailor it to your requirements.

What to pack

Walking shoes, a hat and comfortable clothing. Don't wear too much jewellery.

Where to stay

East London has a pick of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. For a full township experience, book into a B&B in Mdantsane itself. You will be collected by your tour guide the following day.

What to eat

Traditional township fare at a shebeen, though Western food is also available for the less adventurous.

Best buys

Crafted ceramics and other collectables from the Mdantsane Arts Centre.