Have you ever visited a township in South Africa? I have to admit, when my boyfriend first mentioned it whilst flicking through the ‘Hop on Hop Off’ bus guide for Cape Town, i wasn’t keen on the idea. My initial protests of ‘Is it going to be safe’ were dismissed and before I knew it we were getting off the bus at stop 23 and waiting for our driver to return with a tour guide.
We’ve been fortunate to travel quite a lot, and have visited many thought provoking and humbling places, but I don’t think anywhere has brought to life the reality of how different our western lives are compared to those living in Imizamo Yethu.
There were 4 of us on our guided tour, John and I, along with another couple from the United States. The bus drives introduced us to our tour guide, Thobeka who was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and then we were on our way.
As you walk into the township one of the first things you will notice is the rubbish dump, Thobeka explained that one mans trash is another mans treasure and that residents often pick through the rubbish to see what they can find and make use of in their homes.
We were invited into a ladies home, which was immaculate inside, and equipped with tiled floors, running water and a full kitchen. She had resided in the property for over 18 years, the number of the front of her home signifying she was on the waiting list for a brick built property.
We swiftly moved thorough the town and were taken to another ladies house, I can still picture the lady who owned the property, laying in a damp bed, covered in flies and other insects. Her home was not much bigger than a double bed, of which she shared with her young son. Whilst the lady had no more than pots, pans and a few other belonings, one thing which stood out to all of us was her sons school shirts all hung neatly on a hanger, to make sure he was well turned out for school. This lady was not fortunate enough to have her own bathroom or running water. They had to use a communal tap and toilets each day.
The local school was next on our trip, delightful teachers chatted about the children as they took an afternoon nap on mattresses laid out on the floor. The School was filled with colourful artwork and the teachers were passionate about what they did.
We visited a local food store owned by a Somalian family and a clothing store owned by a Chinese family.
Some of the biggest issues in the township are teenage pregnancy and drugs. Thobekah was quite honest in her portrayal of daily life and didn’t gloss over anything to make life seem better or worse than the reality.
We purchased some artwork from a street vendor which was made from items salvaged from the local tip and before we knew it we were on our way back to the bus stop.
I’d thoroughly recommend the township tour to anyone, you can click the link here to view the tour on the City Sight Seeing South Africa website, or look for Stop 23 on the ‘BLUE MINI PENINSULA TOUR’