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South Africa Holiday: Townships and Locations

In South Africa, the term "township" refers to the urban residential areas that, during Apartheid, were reserved for non-whites. They are often called locations, particularly in smaller towns.

Despite their origins in apartheid South Africa, today the terms township, location and informal settlement are not used pejoratively.
Most towns and cities will have at least one township associated with them. Today they are often viewed as just one of the many suburbs that an urban area might have.
South Africa Holiday: Proudly South African in the township
Tourists should not be misled by what at first they might think is a dirty conurbation. Whilst the majority of township residents are poor, the cleanliness of their homes is often immaculate.
When you see hundreds of finely dressed African workers and shoppers in the town centres, tourists are often surprised to find that the vast majority still live in the townships.


In South Africa, the term "township" usually refers to the (often underdeveloped) urban residential areas that, during Apartheid, were reserved for non-whites (primarily South Africa Holiday: nelson & Winnies Mandela's house in Soweto from the early 1960s
Africans and Coloureds) who lived near or worked in areas that were designated "white-only". Soweto (actually a group of townships called SOuth WEst TOwnships) and Alexandra are two of the most well-known of these.
Other well-known townships include Atteridgeville, Bekkersdal, Boipatong, Bophelong, Botleng, Chatsworth, Daveyton, Diepmeadow, Dobsonville, Duduza, Evaton, Galeshewe, Guguletu, Hammanskraal, Impumelelo, Kagiso, Katlehong, Khayelitsha, Khutsong, KwaThema, Laudium, Lenasia, Langa, Mamelodi, Mdantsane, Mitchell's Plain, Mohlakeng, Munsieville, Orange Farm, Ratanda, Refilwe, Reiger Park, Sebokeng, Sharpeville, Soshanguve, Soweto, Tembisa, Thokoza, Tsakane, Vosloorus, Wattville and Zithobeni, amongst others.

Related pages

Provinces; Cities & Towns.
During the apartheid era non-whites were usually evicted from land and properties that were in areas designated as "white only" and forced to move into townships. Legislation that enabled the Apartheid government to do this included the Group Areas Act. Africans and coloured typically lived in separate townships or locations.
South Africa Holiday: Lockshoek township primary school in the Free State
Although formal racial segregation ended with Apartheid in 1994, many townships have seen rapid development, with wealthy and middle-income areas growing up in parts of Soweto, for example.


Townships for non-whites were also called locations or lokasie (Afrikaans translation). They are often still referred to by that name, particularly in smaller towns.
The term "Kasie", a popular short version of "Lokasie" is also used sometimes to refer to locations and townships.

Informal Settlement

Townships sometimes have large informal settlements nearby.
These shanty towns are areas of irregular, low-cost dwellings, usually on lands belonging to third parties, and most often located in the periphery of formal townships.
South Africa Holiday: Informal settlement in the Karoo
The dwellings are often assembled in a patchwork fashion from pieces of plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, and any other material that will provide cover.
Informal settlements are almost always built without a license. They pose a fire hazard and are remarkable by their near total absence of numbered streets, sanitation networks, electricity, or telephones, and even if they do possess such necessities, they are likely to be disorganized, old or inferior.
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