A colourful, vibrant and lively township, Gugulethu Township is the residence of many of the city’s working population.
It literally lies on top of Cape Town’s International airport, about 20 kilometres outside Cape Town city centre.
“Gugs”, as Gugulethu is usually called was originally named Nyanga West is the oldest township in Cape Town.
It has a lively community and is gradually developing due to tourism.
A visit to the township is indeed an experience that cannot be forgotten and remains a sharp reminder of how life does not always need to be a bed of roses for people to be friendly, warm, welcoming and genuine.
Brief history of Gugulethu Township
The roots of Gugulethu Township can be traced back to the migrant labour system during the apartheid era.
The number of migrant workers from the Transkei had become too great for Langa Township to contain. It was established to provide for accommodation for the migrant workers who moved to Cape Town from the rural Transkei region in the Eastern Cape.
People during the apartheid were allocated rooms in hostels designed in zones. In certain places, up to three men had to share a tiny room and had to live in extreme poverty in an overcrowded place. However, today Gugs has retained only remnants of the former hostels. Many people have built brick and mortar to create privacy. It now also has running water and electricity.
Visiting Gughuletu Township
The main pillar of economy of the Gughuletu Township is the tourism industry. As such, there are numerous restaurants, jazz clubs and B&Bs. It can be said that the most famous venue in Gugulethu Township is Mzoli’s Place, where local and international visitors can be seen on any given day of the week. The tantalizing delicious meat prepared on the open fire ensures that the smell in Mzoli’s Place matches the taste of the food.
Visit the Gugulethu Township’s tourism centre at the corner of NY1 and NY4. It is known as Sivuyile, meaning “we are happy”. Take some time to stroll to the arts and craft shop. The work of local artists and art students are displayed for sale. You can choose from a vast array of sculptures, ceramics, bead-work, traditional clothing and textiles.
The best way to visit the Gughuletu Township is via a guided tour, taking in all the sights and sounds. Most tours take visitors past the Gugulethu Seven Monument which was built as a tribute to seven young black activists who were ambushed and who lost their lives at the hands of the security forces during the dark days of the apartheid.
To mark your tour with a difference, book yourself the Cape Town Jazz Safari. This takes place in the evenings and is an enriching way to experience Gugs. This musical history will allow you to experience the very local tradition of jazz while enjoying a drink at one of the Gugulethu Township’s many shebeens.
Other highlights of the Cape Town Jazz Safari are that you will be able to meet local musicians in their houses, savour the local cuisine and discover the city through its music.
In order to experience the daily lives of the inhabitants of the Gugulethu Township, you can also take a 40-minute guided walk through the houses which are mostly built with roof sheeting.
Once you are ready for a meal, you can stop off for lunch at one of the many braai (barbecue) hot spots and relish some local food.