Located in the Cape Flats area of the Western Cape, Khayelitsha is the second-largest black township in South Africa (after Soweto). It’s a 30-kilometer hop from Cape Town city center; and yet, life in Khayelitsha is very different to life at the prosperous heart of the Mother City, where elegant colonial buildings rub shoulders with world-class restaurants and art galleries.
The township, whose name means “new home” in Xhosa, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Cape Town area. And yet, despite its problems, Khayelitsha has earned itself a reputation as a hotbed of culture and entrepreneurship. Visitors to Cape Town are increasingly drawn there on guided township tours: here are some of the best options for a meaningful Khayelitsha experience.
Before planning a visit to Khayelitsha, it’s important to understand the township’s history. In 1983, the apartheid government announced its decision to re-home legal black residents living in informal settlements on the Cape Peninsula to a new, purpose-built site called Khayelitsha. Ostensibly, the new township was created to provide those living in sub-standard squatter camps with improved formal housing; but in reality, Khayelitsha’s role was to give the government better control over the area’s impoverished black communities by grouping them together in one place.
Legal residents were classified as those that had lived on the Cape Peninsula for more than 10 years. Those that didn’t meet that criteria were considered illegal, and many were forcibly repatriated to the Transkei, one of several black homelands created during the apartheid regime. When apartheid ended, people living in the homelands could once again move freely throughout South Africa. Many of those that had been removed from the Western Cape decided to return, along with countless migrants who flocked to Cape Town in search of work.
These migrants arrived with nothing, and many of them erected makeshift shacks on the edges of Khayelitsha. By 1995, the township had expanded to accommodate over half a million people.
Today, over two million people call Khayelitsha home, earning it its status as the fastest-growing township in South Africa. Poverty is still a crippling issue, with 70% of the township’s residents living in informal shacks, and a third having to walk 200 meters or more to access clean water. Crime and unemployment rates are high. However, Khayelitsha is also a neighborhood on the rise. New brick houses are being built, and residents now have access to schools, clinics and an incredible array of social development projects (including a canoe club and a cycle club).
The township also has its own central business district. It is known for its entrepreneurial grassroots restaurateurs and hoteliers, and even has its very own artisan coffee shop. Township tours offer visitors the chance to explore Khayelitsha’s unique culture – to try authentic African cuisine, to listen to traditional music and to share experiences with the people at the heart of the country’s political issues. Local operators run tours that keep visitors safe while also allowing them to interact with Khayelitsha’s residents in a way that’s both respectful and meaningful.
Read more: https://www.tripsavvy.com/visiting-khayelitsha-township-cape-town-south-africa-4158886