Sunday January 18th ~ (part 2) Langa Township, Cape Town
Earlier in the day we had been blessed with a fun cable car ride up to the top of Table mountain, magnificent views over the city of Cape Town, the joy of seeing several rock hyrax including cute babies, a walk through the colorful Malay Quarter, a stop at a castle built in the mid 1600’s and several more interesting and historical sites. If you want to check out our pictures covering this part, you can click here.
Our day was about to take a dramatic change.
We had a local guide (Shai) take us on a four-hour visit to the poorest part of Cape Town. Here is how the Gate 1 explained the optional tour on their website:
“Join this multi-cultural tour of Cape Town which provides the opportunity to experience authentic interactions with the City’s many different communities. You will be welcomed in the townships of Langa, the oldest formal township. These locations will illustrate the struggles still facing parts of the country and the bitter legacy of apartheid; but it will also show the great strides that have been made since Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The tour includes a visit to the Gugulethu township, meaning “our pride”, which was established as a result of the migrant labor system. Also experience a visit to a “shebeen”, an informal tavern where you will have the chance to mingle with members of the community and see local artisans at work.”
I think they tried to start us out gently, with our first stop being at a community center where some training is given on the computer and local artisans produce items such as hand-painted pottery and sand paintings. The work was excellent quality and was offered to us for sale.
The also have a building that is about 3/4 completed that will be a combination theater and showroom. It has been built by foreign volunteers that have used sea cargo containers, wooden pallets, and straw, grass and mud for insulation.
They offer musical training, including drums where the local children and young adults can perform to earn some money. We had actually observed several of their students a couple of days earlier near where we had seen the penguins.
In a very simplistic explanation, during apartheid, (which translates as “the state of being apart” or separate development) people were segregated and separated according to their skin color. They were divided into four classifications – Black, Coloured, Indian and White. Each of the four groups lived in their own area and they were not allowed to live anywhere else.
In 1994, the law was changed and everyone was finally free to choose where they wanted to live. However, the reality was that much of the black population could not afford to move or relocate into nicer areas.
When Nelson Mandela ran for election on the platform that promised “a better life for all” with the impression that would include housing and employment opportunities, he won the support of the black community. After he was elected, people literally lined up expecting to get a key to their “promised” new home.
Realizing that his intended message had been misinterpreted by many of the uneducated and inexperienced people, Mandela came up with a program that over time built almost three million homes that were indeed given to the poor.
As this program continued, more and more people from all over the country began to move to Cape Town. There was not enough housing for all, and within a short time, shanty towns grew even larger. Squatters took over areas, and new laws protected them from being removed.
We were taken right into the middle of some of these areas where we had the opportunity to visit with the local people, go inside a home, see how they live, take pictures and ask questions.
Large complexes had been constructed, first as housing for men, but later entire families moved in. We visited one of these complexes that was roughly 1200 square feet. It had housed SIXTY men – working and sleeping in shifts. Today several entire families will share this same space.
What I enjoyed the most, was interacting with the children!
For the most part, people were friendly and interested in talking with us. I found that the younger children were the most enthusiastic that we were there, but the teenagers were getting more of an attitude and several of them simply showed us their middle finger and turned their heads.
I’m not so sure that I would enjoy having strangers come into my neighborhood, asking unlimited questions and snapping pictures.
Each area we visited became increasingly more “rustic”.
EXAMPLES OF HOUSING
I will continue our day in the next post with more pictures of people and businesses, plus our visit to the “Witch Doctor”
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the comforts of my little cabin high up in the San Bernardino mountains. It is small, but it has amenities many people from all over the world would look at to be extreme luxury in comparison to how they are living. We take so much for granted, like electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, a washing machine and clothes dryer, our own bed, a place to cook a meal and then a table and a chair to sit on.