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Langa Township
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 government.

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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Early 20th Century

The Langa 1960 Uprising

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