Cape Town: Langa Township

Under Apartheid, townships came to mean a residential area that confined non-whites (blacks, colored, or Indians) living near a residential community. When outside of designated areas or homelands, the black population was required to carry passbooks, and failure to produce them when asked for would lead to arresting. While I spent much time in the well-developed areas in Cape Town such as the waterfront, soccer stadium, and hiking paths, I also saw the other side of Cape Town and spent my weekend in Langa Township. What struck me the most about Langa was the inequality. Obviously there’s a difference between the inner-city and the townships, but even within the township there are huge disparities. On the street below were well-developed houses that could be in any American suburb, while not so far in the distance is the shantytown.


cape town langa township inequality langa towcape townnship shanties

Despite living in Ghana for 10 months, it never hit me that the ribbed pieces of metal that people often construct their businesses or homes out of are actually discarded shipping containers.

cape town langa township shanty construction

Following are the new government-funded apartments, at least some of the ones that could be finished before the government effectively ran out of money for the project.

langa township new government housing

On Sunday I went to church. Singing along proved to be extremely difficult (just see the lyrics below), until the entire congregation changed from psalms to an amazing rendition of One Love.


cape town langa township church

Barbecue is huge in the township; on nearly every block there seemed to be some.

Particularly interesting was the delicacy called ‘smileys.’ Look away vegetarians, before having their hair seared off with a hot iron rod and being boiled for several hours, no teeth show. After cooking, the sheep seems to be grinning. Township dwellers can’t get enough of smileys; boatloads of sheep heads are imported from New Zealand and other countries.

cape town langa township smilies sheep heads cape town smilies sheep heads smoked

My favorite part of the experience was the homestay. My mama was the best chef in all of Langa (I swear!) and ran a takeaway business from her house. She left her door open for most hours of the day, and there didn’t seem to be a single moment around mealtimes where there wasn’t a customer in the house. Everything she made was off the wall delicious, especially her beet salad, celebration rice, and stewed meat.