Friday, August 31, 2012

Langa Township

Langa Township is one of hundreds of communities in South Africa that were designated as all-black areas prior to apartheid.  Langa is just outside of Cape Town and began as a residential area for 5,000 all-male laborers in the city.   Eventually men started bringing their wives and families and today it is a vibrant community of 50,000 people.  

Hostels in Langa Township
Shacks in Langa Township

There are shacks and hostels as well as middle- and upper-class homes all within an area of just a few square kilometers.  While many of the residents still work in Cape Town, the town also has its own "main street" with a variety of businesses that employ many of the township residents.  The government is involved in helping to improve conditions by bringing electricity and water to the township.

Our guide Nathi standing in front of some of the shops

But they don’t need a lot of help.  Nathi, our local guide through the township, has lived his entire life in Langa.  Today, his family lives in one of the middle-class homes, but he spent the first 18 years of his life in a hostel.  His family of four shared one tiny room with two other families.  It couldn’t have been easy, but they made it work and he said that it is still his favorite place that he has lived.  It was a tight-knit community where everyone knew each other, watched out for each other, and cared for each other, contributing to a low rate of violent crime.  When someone commits a crime, Nathi told us that first they answer to the community then to the police.  

Kids in Langa Township waving goodbye

We saw quite a young children wandering around and playing in Langa.  Nathi told us that as a child you are told that every adult in Langa is your parent and so you must listen to and respect them.  Langa is raising its children as a community.  It’s no surprise that Nathi and others finish college and continue to live in Langa helping to improve the community.  Nathi is hoping to open a gym soon, the first in Langa!

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