South Africa is a country famous for its diverse cultures. Cape Town is a particularly cosmopolitan city, with people from all walks of life brushing shoulders every day. There are still certain areas favoured by specific cultural groups. And a township tour in Cape Town can offer you deeper insight into a person from a different culture’s life.
The Cape Town Townships
With South Africa’s volatile political past, one should approach a township tour experience with great respect. It’s not simply a curiosity expedition. It is a chance for you to enhance your world perspective and get to know someone you might not interact with on a regular basis.
There are a few major townships within the borders of the city. Langa is Cape Town’s oldest black township. Situated just off the N2 highway, about 20 minutes from the city centre, Langa is a popular area for commuters working in the City Centre. The township was established in 1927, after the 1923 Urban Areas Act was enacted. Another township is situated close to it, called Nyanga.
Langa was designated as a neighbourhood for Black Africans long before Apartheid increased in the country. During the Sharpeville massacre in Gauteng (21 March 1960), there were similar fatalities in Langa. This was part of the anti-pass campaign. 50 years later a monument was commissioned in the township to honour those who lost their lives during the struggle.
Langa means “sun” in Xhosa but it was named after Langalibalele. He was a renowned rainmaker and chief, imprisoned on Robben Island in 1873 because he rebelled against the Natal government. It was established to commemorate this folk hero. The area started to be developed in 1898 before becoming an official township.
Langa was the starting point for a historical march on 30 March 1960. 30 000 to 50 000 protesters headed to the Caledon Square police station, to protest the Apartheid pass laws. The march was led by Philip Kgosana and the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress).
Khayelitsha was established as a township much later, in 1983. It was started under the orders of Dr Piet Koornhof, the Apartheid era Minister of Co-operation and Development. It lies on the Cape Flats, about 30 minutes from the CBD, also along the N2. The name means “our new home” in Xhosa. It is the fastest growing township of South Africa.
By 1985 the suburb already housed 30 000 people. The main aim of the township was to alleviate two problems. Firstly, to deal with the growing number of Eastern Cape migrants. And secondly, to lighten the overcrowding burden of the other Cape Town townships.
Gugulethu is situated on the outskirts of the Southern Suburbs, about 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. In the Apartheid era it was a volatile area. Although now a bit more tranquil, it is still in struggle. Interestingly enough, in the beginning the roads did not have names, but simply numbers. The town planners called the main road leading into the area NY1 (Native Yard 1) which is now known as Steve Biko Drive.
The area was only given an official name much later on, in the beginning it was simply seen as an extension of the other existing township, Nyanga. Both were established in the 1960’s to deal with the overcrowding issue of Langa. The community objected to the NY terminology system and in September 2012 the NY1 was changed to Steve Biko Drive. Other renamings include Albert Luthuli, Ray Alexander, Amy Biehl, and the “Gugulethu Seven“. There is also an official memorial to honour the seven young men who were fatally ambushed by security police in 1986.
The name comes from the Xhosa “igugu lethu” meaning “our pride”. The locals lovingly refer to it as “Gugs”. Many black residents were relocated here from Windermere, after it was declared a Coloured area by the Apartheid regime.
The Best Township Tours in Cape Town
A township tour in Cape Town can offer you a glimpse of a different lifestyle to your own. Challenging our cultural mindset is always an enriching experience.
Siviwe Tours offers walking tours of Langa. Immerse yourself in the daily lives of the people who call it home.
Take 2 Tours lets you explore Gugulethu, Khayalitsha, Langa, and the old District Six on foot or with a bicycle. Experience more of the township life.
Mile by Mile Tours takes you on an exploration journey of a few Cape Town townships, including District Six, Langa, Guguletu, and Bonteheuwel.
18 GM offers a variety of township experience tours including a museum visit, a taxi trip, an entertainment tour, and the Khayelitsha Big 7 tour. You can also opt to spend a whole weekend in the township.