|In 1923 the Urban Areas Act was
passed forcing Africans to live in locations. Ndabeni was overcrowded and
'filthy', and few Africans lived there any more as many had moved to District
Six and the Cape Flats.
White middle class residents in Pinelands were keen that
Ndabeni be removed, and hence a new location named 'Langa' was opened. The name
Langa literally means 'sun', but it is derived from the name of Langalibalele -
a Hlubi rebel imprisoned in Cape Town after rebelling against the Natal
Langa was a planned township and radically different to the
failure that was Ndabeni. What emerged was a design allowing maximum visibility
of residents by the authorities and hence their control.
No visitors or gatherings were allowed without permission from
the superintendent, and the brewing of sorghum beer (utshwala) was prohibited.
This rule was much resented by residents, who also rejected the idea of
municipal beer halls because they did not enable the community to prevent young
men drinking in line with traditional culture. However, there was a sharp rise
in illegal brewing and after many police raids total prohibition was lifted in
1930. Municipal beer halls were built in 1945.
Black residents of Cape Town, like all others, did not have a
single identity. Tribal affiliations were strong. For example, the Mfengu
community held celebrations to mark their 'liberation' from the Xhosa, and
hence stirred resentment in the township.
At the same time, the urban experiences of many blacks in Cape
Town were re-shaping their tribal identities. The small emerging petit
bourgeoisie consisted of teachers, clerks, court interpreters, traders, nurses
and ministers of religion. Some of these lived in Ndabeni, but others worked
and lived in the city centre.
The proximity of housing in Langa was one factor in promoting a high degree of
neighbourliness, and the creation of African institutions. Shared rural
homelands spurred the naming of sports teams e.g. the Basutoland Happy Lads,
the Transkeian Lions.
Within Langa, young people married across ethnic groups rather
than marry someone from their rural homeland. Townswomen were considered
'brighter and more polished' and men more 'smartly dressed' than their
counterparts in the country.
Churches were a very important part of Langa life, particularly for women. The
Women's Christian Association (Umanyano wabafazi) of the Bantu Presbyterian
Church had 90 members and provided much of the 'self help' services to
neighbours in this very poor community.
The messages spoken through the church were often about leading
a moral life, but also drew links between religion and politics by pointing out
that there was no room for colour distinctions in the scriptures.
Education was highly valued in Langa. While primary schools were set up in the
area, the authorities initially refused to provide a secondary school as
requested by Langa residents. It was not until 1937 that permission was given
for secondary classes after pressure from a group of clergy and parents who
encouraged pupils to aspire to become nurses, teachers and ministers.
Sports was an important part of school life, and there was much
community pride in Langa High School's rugby team.
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Langa 1960 Uprising
Black Political Organisation