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Shacks, shebeens and securitization

Originally established under the white minority regime to compulsorily house non-white labour outside the cities, South Africa’s townships are now obvious targets for a nascent low-income housing finance market.

With so much natural beauty around it, Cape Town can be an anticlimax for a first-time visitor. For the international business traveller spending most of his time in the central business district, the mix of colonial and contemporary buildings is agreeable but familiar. Architecturally, there is little to distinguish the city from dozens of others from Perth to Pennsylvania where the Dutch and then the British arrived to trade and settle. From street level, even South Africa’s most recognizable landmark, Table Mountain, blends in with the corporate skyline, its flat top forming precise right angles with the skyscrapers.

For something more distinctive, many visitors go to a township, where non-white South Africans were forced to live by white minority governments for much of the 20th century.

Langa (“The Sun”) is South Africa’s oldest township, created in 1923 – racial segregation was active long before apartheid was formally applied in the late 1940s. Barely 20 minutes from the city centre, you turn off the highway onto a grid of roads flanked by dwellings and local businesses housed in converted freight containers or shacks. On street corners, beef sausages sizzle on barbecues improvised from halves of 40-gallon drums or shopping trolleys, and women prepare boiled sheep heads.

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