I had mixed feelings about doing a township tour, as I didn’t want residents to think that we were gawping zoo-like at their lives. On the other hand, we wanted to share some of the tourism dollars with people other than those owned the fancy shops along the waterfront. An escorted tour seemed the easiest and safest way. After a bit of research, we took the Cape Capers township experience (http://www.tourcapers.co.za/).
The tour cost ZAR270 for the afternoon. We were lucky enough to get Faisal Gangat, the owner of the company and winner of Cape tourism tour guide of the year 2003/2004, as our guide. Faisal previously worked in marketing, but sold his Merc in 2002 and bought a minibus to set himself up as a tour guide. He collected us and drove us out to the township of Langa. Faisal is of Indian extraction, and on the way, he pointed out where his wife was born in District Six. Her family was forced out in the ‘60s, but the story has a happy ending. Faisal’s father-in-law has been resettled back in District Six. As Faisal said now, he can live his remaining days at peace.
Faisal is fluent in Kho San and was involved with the ANC, and so seems to be respected in the Langa townships. Faisal focuses on the positive – the AIDS awareness initiatives and bottom-up enterprise schemes. We visited a community centre where people sell their crafts. I bought a mug there. Then we went to Tsoga environmental centre, which encourages people to be environmentally aware and to grow their own food. From there a local guide brought us on a walking tour. He showed us the hostels where, during the apartheid regime, people recruited as domestic servants, etc., from the homelands stayed. In these hostels, people were separated from their husbands, wives, children, and family of origin. Now, they are a bit more humane and house families. I was still dismayed by the lack of space (eight people in a box room) and the stench caused by people living is such close proximity to each other. I also felt very uncomfortable invading people’s privacy by walking around their homes, especially while they were there. It is one thing I would like to see changed in the township tour. These hostels are slowly being demolished and replaced with more modern flats, but they are still cramped by Western standards.
We were like pied pipers to the children – some looking for stuff, some just curious. We were told not to give anything to individual children, so we gave colouring books and crayons to the preschool.
Our guide also showed us the informal settlement, which makes the worst halting site in Ireland look plush. People living here do not have access to water or electricity. Then our guide showed us the "Beverly Hills" of Langa, where the professionals live. It was the public facade of Langa disguising the much higher level of deprivation behind. That said, it is still very different from the homes of doctors and lawyers here.
After the walking tour, we had a traditional and tasty meal at the cookery school there.