26 April 2023
The Langa Centenary celebrations kick off on 27 April, with a 10km Freedom Run around the township, starting and ending at the Langa stadium.
The run honours Makhosonke Fika, Langa’s legendary long-distance athlete. Fika has run different marathons around the world. He told GroundUp that his most significant run was the 2002 Singapore Marathon, where he came second. Fika said he would be participating in the Freedom Run by helping out with the marshalling.
Langa commemorates its 100th year of existence this year.
At the launch of the centenary programme held on Monday 24 April, the Langa Centennial Planning Committee said other events would include concerts, boxing tournaments, beauty pageants, fashion shows, exhibitions, markets, festivals, dialogues, lunches and an awards ceremony.
The launch, held at the Guga S’Thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa, was attended by members of the South African Navy, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, musicians, various organisations and residents, all of whom have pledged to participate. Afrofusion band Abavuki band (“early risers” in isiXhosa), whose members are all from Langa, played at the launch.
As part of their contribution towards the celebrations, the Navy has contributed a display that deals with the history of the steam ship SS Mendi and the South African Native Labour Contingent, hundreds of whom died when the ship sank in 1917. On 21 February 1917, the Liverpool-registered SS Mendi, which had left from Cape Town in January 2017 under charter to Britain as a troop transport ship, was rammed by another British vessel, the Darro, between its bridge and its bow. On board were 823 black enlisted men and white officers on their way to France. The Mendi sank in 20 minutes, killing over 600 servicemen.
In Langa, Mendi Avenue is named after the SS Mendi. The University of Cape Town also has a Mendi Memorial on its lower campus created by artist Madi Phala.
Committee spokesperson Alfred Magwaca said Langa township had historical, cultural and socio-political significance “as the first black township in the Western Cape.”
He said the main celebration event was planned for September, when an awards ceremony would take place. “We want to award all our greats, everyone who has made Langa what it is today, whether it is in sport, education, health, arts, culture or business,” said Magwaca.