Khayelitsha turns 30

| Pharie Sefali and GroundUp staff
Dancers performing in Khayelitsha.

Khayelitsha is officially turning 30. Plans to build Khayelitsha were announced by the notorious Minister of Co-operation and Development, Dr Piet Koornhof, in 1983. By 1985, the suburb Site C had 30,000 people. *

Khayelitsha represented one of the apartheid regime’s last attempts to enforce the Group Areas Act of 1950, which designated separate residential areas along racial lines. Khayelitsha was seen as the solution to two problems; the growing number of immigrants from the Eastern Cape, and overcrowding in Cape Town townships. Koornhof was quoted in the Cape Times on 1 July 1983 saying that eventually all of Cape Town’s Africans would be located in the township. It didn’t seem to both Koornhof that the city’s poorest people would have to travel dozens of kilometres to find work. The name Khayelitsha is Orwellian. Translated from Xhosa, it means “Our new home”.

Piet Koornhof’s huge ears and evasive public speaking were the object of much satire, most famously by Pieter Dirk Uys.

Piet Koornhof’s huge ears and evasive public speaking were the object of much satire, most famously by Pieter Dirk Uys. Despite Koornhof’s racist thinking and actions he was eventually considered a “verligte” in the National Party cabinet. And it was a big media story when he eventually divorced his wife and married a black woman. Koornhof joined the ANC in 2001 and died at the age of 82 in 2007.

According to the 2011 census Khayelitsha is Cape Town’s biggest township with just under 400,000 people. But this could be a substantial underestimate. On the opposite extreme, the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) estimates that the township has 1.5 million people, which is likely a vast overestimate.

N&S Events Management together with the KDF and Khayelitsha Community Trust (KCT) have invited the public to participate in celebrations that will take place from 24 October to 3 November.

“The 30th anniversary is Khayelitsha’s milestone event that amongst other things will build social cohesion and pride, while also celebrating 20 years of democracy. The event will draw together community, business, youth organisations, media, visitors and tourists to celebrate Khayelitsha’s heritage and diversity,” said Samkhumzi Nobatana, spokesperson for the event.

The anniversary will be staged at venues in Khayelitsha, with the main event in site C because it is the oldest area.

The programme includes music, sports, dance, drama, exhibitions of art and craft and local products, an outdoor area for food and drink, as well as local businesses exhibiting their services and products.

Nobatana says the anniversary is a way to contribute to the long term development of Khayelitsha’s economy and to build ubuntu within the community.

Sinazo Nkosi, a resident, said that such events will bring the community together because they are so rare. “People have negative thoughts about Khayelitsha because of poverty and the high level of crime. So such positive things provide hope and motivations. The event will enable people of Khayelitsha and surrounding areas to come together in a fun, relaxed environment mixed with positive spirit. We would like everyone to be involved in the success of this event. If people want to contribute by sponsoring or by donating towards the event, they are welcome to do so. We would appreciate all the support we can get.”

GroundUp asked residents in Khayelitsha why they would celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Pamela Siphika

Pamela Siphika - “Khayelitsha is a big area and it has a foundation of poverty and disadvantaged people. But even though that is the case people, in the community are survivors. They show strength against the odds. We try by all means to be positive and strive, so that is why I will celebrate the 30th anniversary.”

Phoswa mondi

Phoswa Mondi - “I am not 100% happy in Khayelitsha because there are many problems. There are gangs and I stay in a shack … The only reason I will celebrate the anniversary is the fact that it has shown some sense of development because we now have access to some resources unlike 10 years ago. Today we have malls, shopping centres, internet cafés etc.”

Cilia Ngubo

Cilia Ngubo - “In Khayelitsha you meet different people who have positive visions and the community is accommodating. People here are friendly and they give a sense of Ubuntu. It deserve the celebration.”

Thembinkosi Qondela

Thembinkosi Qondela - “I am proud of the people in Khayelitsha. They are resourceful even though there is little investment in them. I hope the celebration will bring more investors for them. Nevertheless Khayelitsha has its own special vibe.”


To find out more about the events for the 30th anniversary, contact Sakhumzi Nobataba on 076 886 2781 or sakhi [at]

TOPICS:  Society

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