Masiphumelele, a pint-sized township with fewer than 30 000 souls, is the perfect example of how travellers can help uplift a community. Visitors have helped provide housing, a clinic, a bicycle repair shop. As you walk through the streets, friendship is only a smile away.

Did you know?

Masiphumelele means ‘we will succeed' in isiXhosa.

On the teeming streets of Masiphumelele township just over the hill from Simons Town, it's weekend, and braai time.

The avenues are fogged with fragrant smoke as the aromas of beef steak and lamb chops in home-made marinades fill the air. Cheerful township women are roasting their mealie cobs and meat on makeshift sidewalk grillers while kwaito music blares out from the open windows of battered cars.

Like a schooner in full sail through the cheerful South African township of Masiphumelele comes our escort, Charlotte Nomthunzi Swartbooi.

Charlotte, one of the community leaders in this hardscrabble enclave of about 30 000 souls, has an open smiley face and a bright red turban on her head. ‘A lot of people – many of them foreigners – have donated what they can to Masiphumelele township,' she says as we stroll to the Bicycle Empowerment Network.

‘We get old and broken bicycles from England, Switzerland and Germany,' says Charlotte. ‘And they are fixed here and sold cheaply to the locals.' A bicycle tour of Masiphumele accredited by Fair Trade Toruism is also available.

There's something different about this Cape township, a tangible attitude of self-help and determination. It's an attitude that has attracted useful funding.

There is a European-funded clinic, an orphanage for AIDS children, a vegetable garden project for the township women and a Habitat For Humanity home-building project, sponsored by an American couple who have visited Masiphumelele. This direct help has been a real boon to the community.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Nomthunzi Tours
Tel: + 27 (0)83 982 5692

How to get here

Masiphumelele is along the Cape Peninsula, a short drive from Cape Town, and close to Simon's Town and Kalk Bay.

Around the area

There's plenty to do – swim with penguins, walk with baboons, great restaurants, and hiking in the fynbos.

Tours to do

Charlotte 'Nomthunzie' Swartbooi offers a great walking tour. But if you'd prefer a bicycle, Fair Trade in Tourism have just launched a bike tour of the township.

Get around

Walk around the township, or cycle.

Length of stay

Half a day to a full day is perfect to get to know the area and the people.

Where to stay

There are many options in nearby Simon's Town or in the greater Cape Town region.

Related articles