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Hout Bay Township - Cape Town


Afrika Moni is an intense young man who would like to be a journalist . If you take the tour bus on the blue route out of Cape Town you may be fortunate enough to meet him. As the bus starts its journey, the tour guide will announce a range of stops including the antiques/shopping area, Seal Island, the Botanical Gardens and Hout Bay. He will also tell you that if you would like to see an African township, he can telephone ahead and arrange for an official guide to meet the bus and conduct a township walk. If you are in South Africa to learn about the country, it's at this point that you will meet Afrika Moni.

Hout Bay Township was intended to be home to some 2,000 people; today it is populated by more than 19,000. The proximity to Cape Town suggests better employment opportunities than previously enjoyed by the thousands of newcomers; the truth is that for the majority the move changes little. Most of the residents are still unemployed or standing on street corners hoping to be hired as day labour; almost all are living in extreme poverty. However, this does not stop the flow of new arrivals; the word spreading to the extent that one resident is a Kalahari Bushman who does not speak any of the languages of the community and communicates only by gestures, but is still hopeful that his move to Hout Bay will mean a better life.

You would expect this walk to be surrounded by apprehension; you would expect the residents to be morose and in despair; neither expectation is realised.   It would be remarkable if an area of such deprivation and extreme poverty was free of crime, but there is no feeling of threat. riendliness is the dominant emotion among these residents. They have never known anything but extreme poverty and with the exception of a few of their number, they are resigned to acceptance of these circumstances as the pattern for the remainder of their lives. There is extreme wealth in South Africa, but it is not to be found here.

Despit the general acceptance of the status quo, the people are welcoming and keen that visitors should leave better informed about their circumstances than when they arrived. There are smiles on the faces and the children are, like children everywhere, looking for the smile that seals the bond with their visitors.  



Simple toys are the best

This plastic tent is the permanent home of a township resident

What does the future hold for these township children?


One of the reasons is that there is still some hope in elements of this community. Each year, a party from an Irish based initiative turns up at the settlement to build just a few houses. The waiting list is thousands in length and most will never see any benefit. However, just the fact that someone cares is a powerful reason for hope.

The church hall is at the centre of this community, with jobs for a few having been created by a Mandela Park Mosaics, a small ceramics workshop that is growing and is desperately in need of new premises. Sadly, this may take it outside the township; experience shows that development of opportunity for everyone is enhanced if these facilities can be retained and deeveloped in the township.

Townships like Hout Bay are to be found all over Africa and are an absolute contrast to the wealth to be found in close proximity to each one. Are they the worst conditions in which people live? Probably not. Does South Africa have the wealth to make significant improvements to conditions? Of course it does! Does the South african goverment have the political will and ability to make those improvements? Probably not!


This settlement is quite small in area, but there are thousands of shanty homes crammed into the available space.




Is this a holy thing to see

In a rich and fruitful land
Babes reduced to misery
Fed with cold and usurous hand

William Blake (1757 - 1827)