A woman hangs washing outside one of the Langa hostels. Langa, which means sun, is an urban township located just outside Cape Town. It is one of the country’s oldest townships, and the product of the 1923 Native (Urban Areas) Act . Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The oldest township in the country, rich in history and politics, Langa is, according to the 2011 census, home to 199028 people. Many of the original dwellers came from kwa-Ndabeni, near Maitland, following the removal of black people in that area in the late 1920s.

The majority of the population of 91-year-old township are Xhosa. Its name means sun and comes from Hlubi Chief Langalibalele, who was imprisoned on Robben Island for rebelling against the then-Natal government.

Langa is a buzzing hub of various businesses, from informal traders to a mini shopping centre as well as a string of family-owned stores.

Though movement in and out was restricted under the apartheid government, the people of the area valued their relations and took pride in education, said 82-year-old resident Nontombi Mahlahla.

Mahlahla is a mother of five and has six grandchildren and one great-grandson. She spoke to Weekend Argus about how her parents made sure their children got an education.

“Going to school was a non-negotiable for many families. At the time there were only primary schools in the area and it must have been at least one year before I was born when the high schools were built,” she said.

“My father was very strict. He never went to school but he was a smart man and took no nonsense from anyone. He wanted us to get educated so that we could stand up for ourselves.”

Her family was also forcibly removed from Kwa-Ndabeni.

Mahlahla spoke of the “beauty and peaceful nature” of the area and how “we all knew each other, we were like family”.

“As you can see, the houses here are build like train carriages, just like those in Gugulethu. The white government did not care where they put us, as long as we had the smallest possible space to live and were all cramped up in those spaces.

“My family was among the few who were fortunate to have been able to get a corner house, as this meant we would have a slightly bigger yard.

“But we did not care about the size and the space; for us as black people, what mattered then and what continues to matter is being one with our fellow man,” Mahlahla said.

Weekend Argus