Townships or kasi* (totsi taal) as it’s often called, is the place to be this festive season.

In most cases whenever a person thinks about kasi, they become petrified from all the horror stories shared – they think robbery, two fingers , snatch and go, drugs. What they don’t often tell you about kasi is that, morals and the spirit of Ubuntu are instilled within the community.

Which means that “I am what I am because of who we all are”. It’s only in kasi where you get to experience the emotional connection and the sense of the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Everyone knows everyone in Kasi and they all live together as one family…

Kasi originates from the late 19th century, but the apex of its popularity came during the apartheid times when non-white racial groups (Blacks, Coloured and Indians) were forcefully removed out of their residences to “special” undeveloped places.

The areas where people were moved to were squatter camps, where big African families were squashed into small houses made of materials like zinc and lacked the basic services like sanitation, running water and electricity.

It was this very uncomfortable, constricted space that developed the spirit of Ubuntu among the people.

Emerging from these legendary kasis are the South African legends from Sophiatown to name a few, Dolly Rathebe, Dorothy Masuka Thandi Klaasen and many more. 

Experience SophiaTown [Watch] 

Sophiatown was originally a farm outside Transvaal (now Gauteng) which was named after Hermann Tobiansky’s wife, Sophia after he purchased the land.

The area was meant for whites only, however after a sewage dump was built next to the area, white people felt the need to relocate as the area was not up to their living standards. 

Source: Twitter /@PPupil 
 Later, the owner Hermann Tobiansky gave the oppressed groups (Blacks, Indians and Coloureds) permission to populate the area.

As the population in the freehold township blossomed, extending their houses with shacks and rooms became the only survival method as the house owners were poor as well. Extending their homes meant that they could rent out rooms to help them share the mortgage with tenants.

The overcrowded rooms became a norm, where people lived together as one big family. Spending their days in a vibrant environment, talking, singing, hand washing their clothes, finding love, cooking, fighting and brewing beer and selling it in shebeens.

Although some nights it was difficult to walk safely as people started robbing other people as a means of survival, the community maintained their sense of Ubuntu.

Regardless of the unbearable conditions, the community remained unified and helped each other survive.

My Personal Experience of Kasi:

I have travelled a bit, in and out in different cities that’s as far as my 2 bob (20 cents) could allow me, however until today the best place I would rather be – it’s in a township. Here news doesn’t sleep, as weird as it may sound, everyone has each other’s backs.

It is dusty and very cold in winter but super hot in summer, on summer days families sit under peach trees and laugh the day out. Elders still stand on either side of the fence with (Makhi) and talk about the community happenings, during the sunset on hot days everyone get’s out and sits on stoeps and sharing whatever little thing they have among each other as the old Tswana saying goes, “Bana ba motho ba kgaoganya tlhogo ya tsie” (brother’s share a locust head) which means that brother’s share whatever small thing they have. Nothing beats those long brief weather greetings.

Children don’t yearn for better mothers but they appreciate every moment with their mothers because in most days their mothers take taxis every morning and go to work as cleaners in Mlungu’s houses and only come back very late and tired. Kids still play indigenous games on the streets, like “diketo”.

It’s these very slums were most of us found love.

Kasi has a special sense of romance that requires the two love birds to always keep it under cover because once the parents know, it’s hectic.

Dating in townships means that you only see each other during late afternoon with a please-call-me (translated into “I am outside”). Once you guys meet, you will take long strolls around the dusty streets and to end it off sweetly you can both pop into the nearest spaza and get something.

However timing is very important, the trick is to make sure that if you’re a girl leave your house with a textbook and say you are going to the library or to some group assignment or else your mother will never allow you to leave the house.

While on the other side of the world, there are fancy sterile “prisons” where the neighbours barely acknowledge each other, and no one borrows sugar because they’re all on diets. ema-suburbsini is said to be the most polished side populated with *cheese people and its known to be the most safest places to reside in.

However a life in suburbs seems empty ask me, I can testify to that. The environment is filled with the spirit of selfishness. As long as a person is self-sufficient they don’t really care about the next person, there is no sharing. The worst part is that sometimes you don’t even know your neighbor, which is a big problem according to Kasi culture. In Kasi, your neighbours are your closest family, because when something happens to you, they are the first people to know and to assist.


1. Kasi: In South Africa, an urban area assigned to black South Africans under apartheid, referred to as a township

2. Cheese Kop: baldhead

3. Diketo- Diketo is a game that is played by two players and traditionally these would be two young girls both sitting on the grounds

4. 2 Bob – 20 cents

Categories: Lifestyle News