During our 12-day trip to South Africa (from California), our family wanted to see more than animals and scenery. We had heard about opportunities to visit Langa Township during our stay in Cape Town, so we asked our South African travel consultant, WWS, and they put us in touch with Vamos Tours. We feel fortunate that our tour was led by Siviwe, the (co-)owner and founder of Vamos Tours. At our request, he started by explaining some of the history of South Africa, going back to the 17th century. He gave us a brief overview of the political and racial tensions that preceded the apartheid policy, which was officially imposed beginning in 1948. We learned about the ANC and the “Freedom Charter,” and how the racial, political and economic circumstances have evolved since Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.
He showed us poor neighborhoods, but also areas of Langa that are definitely middle class. We walked past ramshackle homes and small businesses, into a courtyard filled with both freshly-washed laundry and garbage strewn everywhere. (There is really no place to take the garbage, and no money to pay to have it picked up.) We chatted with inhabitants of a multi-family housing unit, where each 15X18 foot room houses a 3-5 member family. We were welcomed by little children who happily thronged about us while other children, members of Siviwe’s “Happy Feet” dance program, performed for us.
Siviwe is a very intelligent, articulate and sincere young man who is proud of his community and its culture and eager to help visitors discover why. He told us how all the children are essentially raised by all the adults in their life – an uncle is also considered “Dad,” and all older adults are respected “aunties” and “uncles.” Siviwe repeated for us the five things children are taught that “make you wealthy on the inside:” 1. Don’t look down on someone who is struggling. 2. Don’t envy someone who has made it. 3. Don’t be racist. 4. Never let anger or hatred drive you and 5. Don’t beg. Pretty powerful rules to live by. And we had the impression that the self-confident children we encountered had already absorbed these important principles.
Thank you, Vamos Tours, thank you, Siviwe, for a well-run, informative-yet-fun tour. It was the highlight of our 5 days in Cape Town!
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