The Township the view from the House Of Glass
Crime, hi-jacking, rape, robberies, poverty, lack of education and skills are just a few stigmas attached to the township. Many people have different perspectives of what township life is, what it looks like, how it must feel like living there, right down to the type of people you would expect to find living there. All these perceptions coupled with our history of apartheid and the media shape this projected image of the township. The truth is, very few people know what township life is like.
Growing up in the township in the 90’s, I remember how the streets were always alive and jovial (especially on a weekend). People walking up and down the road, the whistles exchanged back and forth that I could never quite understand, the sound of children playing and laughing; and the singing from the local township shebeen and that small group of working man that always gathered under the same tree every weekend for a round of beer. Music was a big part of township life, and it still is. This might stem from the fact that Africans love to sing and dance as much as they love their traditional food.
Growing up crime was not an everyday topic nor was it considered rife. I do not remember witnessing it or hearing of a break-in in the neighbourhood as a child growing up.
Tsotsi’s/criminals roamed the township, mostly doing pick pocketing and petty crime. Then there was the gitsi’s (car jackers) who operated outside of the township, driving nice cars and wearing fancy clothes and spending thousands at the drop of a hat – they made the criminal life look fancy to youngsters.
At any given time there would be a handful of criminals that were the reason why no one wanted to be outside after dark. These criminals were usually known by name and dealt with in time. The township had its’ own way of dealing with criminals back then, it was called D.C short for disciplinary committee. Criminals would be stripped naked beaten to the point of hospitalisation (sometimes death) and paraded throughout the township for all to witness.
The township or iKasi as it is best known is the pulse of the nation – the epitomy of urbanisation in the modern era. iKasi dictates the latest trends in brands, music, fashion, drink, cars, hangouts, hairstyle and trendiest suburb to purchase your first home to the best hotel and restaurants. Africans are a people who are traditionalists but embrace change. Just like in any other culture the media plays a pivotal role in influencing the fashion trends and Africans are brand and price conscious buyers who love wearing the best and latest fashion trends on the market. No-wonder it makes business sense for big business to move to the township – it is where the majority of their customers are.
The typical weekend in the 21st century is canvassed by the local mall/shopping centre, carwash, shisa nyama/ traditional food outlet, a visit to the local salon and an evening at the best lifestyle establishment in iKasi. With the change in income we have seen start-up businesses like B n’ B’s, spa’s and Lifestyle establishments pop-up around the township. The entrepreneurial spirit is sweeping over iKasi but not all businesses survive, I believe this is due to lack of business acumen. Through education and proper distribution channels the gap between skills and education can be bridged, sustaining and developing business in the township.
Nearly 17 years later, the township vibe and entertainment scene has grown and is the main tourist attraction. The thread that defines and links township culture is ‘spirit’. iKasi spirit reminds me of Timone and Pumba’s phrase ‘hakuna matata’ a Swahili phrase meaning ‘no worries’ – be happy.