We should have visited a township in Cape Town but due to the lack of time, we skipped it. When in Knysna, we found that we had too much time on hand and decided to pop into the Tourism Office and found ourselves a guide for a township tour there.
Boy, I was glad we didn’t miss out visiting a township while in South Africa. We could admire the sights and the scenes and enjoy copious amount of good food and wine, but that wouldn’t allow us to have a glimpse of the lives of a bulk of the population in the country.
This is not a story of poverty in Africa. In fact, the township tour told us an encouraging story of how a community move towards greater improvements in life.
With the apartheid philosophy in South Africa, races are separated. Designated towns and cities are set aside as white residential areas while the rest of the population would stay in townships or the fringes of white areas. Many of the residents of Khayelethu Township in Knysna work in the restaurants or hotels/bed-and-breakfast at Knysna town but they would have to commute daily from their township to the town area for work.
We visited the shops in the township, and went to the school and library. Nelson Mandela had helped to improve the living standards and education standards within for the population living in townships.
Just looking at Khayelethu, you could see the standard of the newer houses get better and these were free housing!
We stopped by the house of a Xhosa Healer and she showed us some of the local herbs and remedies she used on patients. Subsequently, we headed to our guide’s spanking B&B right in the township.
Our guide was an example of how one strives to improve his life despite the apartheid legislation, through working on his entrepreneurial ideas. Mawande, who is often quoted as a “Denzel Washington lookalike”, started off as a guide hosting tours. Later, he started a restaurant serving local food to give tourists an authentic experience in the township from his home. This venture was eventually expanded to a quaint B&B with two neat and well-furnished rooms.
The three-hour tour was an interesting and eye-opening experience, allowing us to have a glimpse of the locals’ way of life and living environment.
There are various townships from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and along the Garden Route – including the famous Soweto in Johannesburg where Nelson Mandela once lived. Do include such a tour in your itinerary when you plan a trip to South Africa!
You may also wish to refer to the following posts:
- Destination Guide: Self Drive in South Africa
- South Africa Safari: Private Game Reserve or Kruger?
- 3 Restaurants To Visit In South Africa