Here’s the first blog in a mini series on Townships. I’ve stated previously that South Africa is different from other parts of Africa I’ve experienced. I was lucky enough to get an in depth look at one of the Townships, and more insight into why South Africa (Cape Town specifically) is so different.
So Townships are areas that are specially set aside for black people in South Africa- let’s be clear- they were/are purposely separated from the white communities by the government that existed at that time to contain and control the black populations. There’s only one entrance to the township and one exit. I had the pleasure of spending time in the Langa Township, which is the oldest township and the closest to Cape Town City. Table Mountain is quite visible from the township as it is just a 15 minute bus ride (more like a packed van) from town.
While black, migrant, white, and colored South Africans (I will explain the difference in a later post) live all over Cape Town and the surrounding suburbs, only black, some migrants, and colored people live in the townships. The difference, I realized after spending the day in this township, from other parts of Africa is that I’ve never seen areas set aside in Africa for black people. This concept is foreign to the rest of Africa as I know it- Africans live together in a community or village and are not separated by color. Cities are not divided by black and white.
Now, you might have a certain image of what the townships look like, and as every community is different, so are the townships. People and communities around the world are often stereotyped, but in reality are quite dynamic. Townships are not all poverty stricken, in fact, I saw a Mini Cooper driving around. People have businesses, houses, cars, and they thrive in a close knit community. People look out for one another and function just as they would in a neighborhood in New York City.
The government has spent significant time and money since 1994 cleaning up and beautifying this particular township. Slowly, the scrappy settler huts have been replaced by public housing. There’s a beautiful an arts community center, a theater, and a super nice swimming pool. While the government has made contributions to housing and the community, not the entire community has been prioritized, as I discovered when walking through different areas of the township. Stay tuned for the next post on race and inequality within the townships.