There are between 8-10 black townships and around twenty coloured townships; Langa in Cape Town is one of the oldest. I took an informative tour of two with Coffee Bean Routes to deepen my understanding of the history and current situation surrounding these challenging communities and what’s being done for their future.
The tour started with a trip to the Langa Township Heritage museum where we were met and introduced by the ebullient larger than life Alfred.
A man with a huge heart who exudes a passion for keeping this historical place alive & passing on its message to as many as far and as wide.
The museum is also known as the Dompas (dumb pass) Museum as it was once a pass office and court in the apartheid era. During apartheid all black people outside the confines of their government designated areas were legally required to carry passbooks. Failure to produce one resulted in a fine, arrest, or deportment.
The Museum has a haunting legacy but what shines is the defiant victory that was won beyond the sadness. Boards adorn the walls and historic images of battles won.
Great respect was shown for the women involved in the movement and Alfred exclaimed were it not for their active support things could have been very different.
We moved on into the court room where trials were carried out and the heaviness of the past were broken with the lightheartedness of the next generation being educated in turbulent times that could otherwise have been forgotten.
The torture, racism and abuse will undoubtedly disturb you. It is hard to imagine such inhumanity. However the message is clear and the purpose is one that is taken away.
The hope is that the message lasts and is dispersed to a greater audience.
We moved on to discover more of what was being done in the present and introduced to Tony who was formerly one of the Jamie Oliver ‘fifteen’ and had chosen to return to his roots and ignite something similar on his own turf. The initiation being a social enterprise project in the heart of Langa that rejuvenates and kick starts a fresh objective.
The IT cafe was open to all and serves as a very fresh initiative within the community.
The mix may be in it’s grass roots but the seed of growth has begun to grow.
We were then introduced to Sihle Tshabalia who runs the Brothers For All project. Sihle serves as a fresh initiative in the community and is dedicated in his ambition to transform poison into medicine. A former ex- con he instills harmony in the community and paves the way for fresh beginnings.
After leaving prison he learnt how to become a computer programmer & now passes on these skills to those less able in acquiring them.
His passion for that growth was captivating.
Many activities are made available to those involved in the scheme, which include making brilliant necklaces out of the packaging of breakfast cereal.
We then viewed a fascinating exhibition of projected plans and development by The University of Cape town within Langa that could truly put the township on the map and attract a wider audience. Voted by a ‘red dot’ system this being a choice for the people by the people.
Later we walked around the complex Ikhaya Le Langa ‘house of the sun’ and viewed some of the outstanding artwork surrounding the perimiter.
We finished the tour with seeing the free enterprise that was running in another township. Moving on to Khayelitsha which has a population of between 1.8 and 2 million we were introduced to a business that is run by what could be described as the three musketeers.
Wongamae Balani and two partners have founded and developed a coffee outlet that is quite unique in its surroundings.
The commitment to become baristas of excellence took three years of training and discernment.
Now The Department of Coffee are attracting a larger audience outside the township. People from other areas and those en route to The Winelands make a pit stop to sample pure and free. The guys are producing their own beans. They are training baristas, they are handing on. they are looking for growth but feeding others with the same spirit. I felt quite emotionally battered by the experience of the tour however it was precisely what i desired to know, or at least gain a better understanding of. The truth of the matter.
It is easy to visit Cape Town and get caught up in a free and fine existence that turns a blind eye to the uniqueness that lies beneath. I was glad to experience the heart of the matter. The spirit. The community. It’s quite simply something else.