Townships in South Africa
Did you know?
Two of South Africa's Nobel Peace Price laureates called Soweto home Former President Nelson Mandela lived in Vilakazi Street, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu still lives in Soweto’s Orlando suburb.
Heita! Township lingo for 'Hello'. Welcome to the real South Africa. The townships of South Africa are the place where the heart of the nation beats.
While the plusher suburbs have more of a polished veneer, and may serve up more in the way of consumer conveniences, it's the townships in South Africa where you discover the emotional connection, the conviviality and the sense of camaraderie that underpins South Africa's working class.
The townships in South Africa were designed as fortresses of apartheid control, a malicious and deliberate use of urban planning to alienate communities. Post-apartheid, shacks are being replaced by government subsidised houses, hostels are being carved up into proper family quarters, roads are continuously being tarred, and basic services are slowly being installed.
Don't visit South African townships on your own steam. Often road signs are absent and maps can be confusing. There are myriad professional tour companies that specialise in township tours, including transport to and from the townships, colloquially as 'eKasi'.
Be it Joburg's Alexandra or Soweto, the country's most populous and historically rich township, or Pretoria's Mamelodi and Soshanguve - both jazz strongholds, or Cape Town's Khayelitsha and Langa, where Brenda Fassie, the country's undisputed queen of pop was born, all are covered by professional outfits who will guide you through these sprawling warrens.
Go on a tavern crawl, where you can dance till breathless to the tune of jazzy African rhythms and imbibe traditional Zulu tipple, sorghum home-brewed beer. But first, be sure to line your stomach 'eKasi style'. Try chisa'nyama, meat braaied or cooked over an open fire on an outside pavement.
And before you get caught up in the eKasi gambol, its essential to pay your respects at a few anti-apartheid memorials. There are a profusion to choose from. Remember, these were once hot beds of resistance to cruel system now relegated to memory.