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CAPE TOWN: Our insider’s guide to Khayelitsha

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The fastest-growing township in the country, housing more than two million and once a bastion of apartheid, this huge site now offers spaces and growth for entrepreneurs and creativity.

Income from rentals from back rooms in yards or informal structures is widespread, and well-developed sections generate much higher prices.

Khayelitsha may not be lined with white picket fences and little houses on the prairie, but it sure is the playground for many young entrepreneurs. Here tailors, hairdressers, gourmet foodies and braai masters hustle to sell their wares in this bustling area. The entrepreuneurship and creativity doesn’t end there. 

Creatives have also converted the dysfunctional post office into Khayelitsha’s favourite chill spot, with two households adjacent to it converted into a topclass restaurant and pub.

The name Khayelitsha translates directly from Xhosa as “new home”. Why new home, you may ask? In 1983, the apartheid government announced its decision to rehouse legal black residents living in informal settlements on the Cape Peninsula to a new, purpose-built site named Khayelitsha.

Legal residents were classified as those who had lived on the Cape Peninsula for more than 10 years. Those who didn’t meet that criteria were considered illegal, and many were forcibly repatriated to Transkei (now Eastern Cape). The township was created to provide those living in sub-standard squatter camps with improved formal housing.

In reality, Khayelitsha’s role was to give the government better control over the area’s impoverished black communities by grouping them together. When apartheid ended, people living in the homelands could once again move freely throughout South Africa.

Nokwazi Square is close to Kuils River and a number of schools and shops. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Many who had been removed from the Western Cape decided to return, along with countless migrants from other countries who flocked to Cape Town in search of work. This neighbourhood on the rise is now home to more than two million people, earning it its status as the fastest-growing township in South Africa.

Khayelitsha is serviced by three police stations, more than six clinics and the newly-built Khayelitsha District Hospital for tertiary medical cases. Children residing here are spoilt for choice with more than five primary and high schools with Xhosa mainly the medium of instruction.

The newly-built Khayelitsha District Hospital deals with tertiary medical cases. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

For further education and training, a TVET college is within walking distance for some. Despite this being the fastest-growing neighbourhood in Cape Town, it is no walk in the park for realtors.

RDP houses are passed on from generation to generation and cash sales from one family to the next are the order of the day. Fernando Antonio, founder of ZAkasi Property, says Ilitha Park, Thembani Park and Bongweni are the well-developed sections followed by G and H sections of this neighbourhood.

Nokwazi Square is close to Kuils River and a number of schools and shops. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

“G and H sections are among the optional areas that potential buyers look into. These individuals are mostly first-time home buyers who are graduates or work for government, or with relatively steady income from the private sector. Houses here are about 23 years old and range in price from R500000 upwards,” says Antonio.

Rental income is among the fastest growing forms of money generation. Yards are lined with back rooms and some with informal structures which all bring in anything from R350 upwards a month for each household. Every centimetre in these yards counts.

The Milk Restaurant in Khayelitsha. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Dumisani Wambi, 34, moved to Khayelitsha from the Northern Cape’s platteland town De Aar in 1998 for better education at Luhlaza High School. Now a journalist and community developer, Wambi is the founder of Real Youth International, one of several thriving non-governmental organisations in this community, focusing on youth development through sporting activities in schools.

“When I arrived in Khayelitsha, I lived in B section, but in 2000 my mother moved us to H section. Having lived with a lack of resources, it has shaped my understanding of the environment and a need to start my NGO. “Through my work, I have come to realise the needs of youngsters from here and neighbouring communities.” 

Dumisani Wambi’s favourite things to do

I enjoy being a resident because I have seen it evolve to become a leading entrepreneurial township. It has a sense of being alive with a willingness among youth to develop their brands and host income-generating events. The number of young investors is taking Khayelitsha to greater heights. – Dumisani Wambi, resident Picture: Supplied

1 Sport Thusong Recreational Centre

I mostly come here for a laid-back game of basketball. Steve Biko Road. 021 361 0504

Play a laid-back game of basketball at the Thusong Recreational Centre. Picture: Kim Stone

2 Art Khayelitsha

Art School and Rehabilitation Centre, affectionately known as KASI RC, is Mandisi Sindo’s new “shack theatre” in Khayelitsha. Visitors and locals can enjoy the performing arts and take part in educational workshops. Music, poetry, dance and theatre productions have a second home in KASI RC, where all can be enriched, healed and uplifted through heartfelt performances. Phelandaba Street, Zwelitsha, Khayelitsha. 062 578 9416/084 038 1900

3 Museum

18 Gangster Museum provides an authentic look at some of the difficulties of Khayelitsha life, especially the impact of gangs on the local community. 021 821 7864/073 766 2078

4 Chillspot

Sikis is a cafe where I go to meet like-minded people over a cup of home-brewed coffee. Sikelela Dibela, who owns this place, grids his own beans, making it even more unique. Sikis Koffee Kafe, 7 Ntaba Street, Phakamisa Litha Park. 082 369 8229

5 Entertainment

Ghetto Sessions is where trend-setters and budding entrepreneurs combine into a session of idea-sharing. This also forms a book club and ideas and material are exchanged. I recommend this to anyone who’d like to be in touch with youngsters through art and entertainment. Sessions are held at various venues. 063 758 0185


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