Black Entrepreneurship: Out of the township into the township

We spend the entire Friday afternoon on the balcony drinking Dutch beer while loud house music vibrates through the speakers. The neighbors don’t complain.  Last year, John moved into the flat toghether with his fiancé, a young professional. When I first met him he was staying in a structure made out of corrugated iron that was not much bigger than the double bed it was covering. He desperately sought to leave the township and felt stereotyped by potential employers for his place of residence. ‘People think that nothing good can come out of this place,’ he told me. Now he lives in a two bedroom flat with hardwood floors. The flat screen TV in the lounge is the largest I have ever seen so far in a private home.

The apartment block in one of Cape Town’s Northern suburbs was previously reserved for people classified as White under the Apartheid regime of spatial segregation. Now, the house is home to people from various identity groups, including immigrants from other African counties. The street below the balcony is lively, people pass and enter a pub, or they go to the nearby liqueur store. Sometimes young women covered with big sunglasses pass at the corner and wave their hands from afar. The beats are pumping. John is proud that he made it but he laments that his old township tshomies hardly make an effort to visit his new place.

Currently, John works in Cape Town’s tourist industry but he wants to become his own boss, be an entrepreneur. Now he is in the process of establishing Bazaladot, an event management agency that mediates between artists, spectators, and venues in Khayelitsha. He wants to create a platform for local entertainment and cultural events that uplifts the township. He already established a website. Linked through his facebook it was viewed over 300 times on the first day of its internet presence. The first party launch will take place at the end of October. The theme of the party is to dress up ‘white as snow’. The dress code is symbolic for the inversion of former power relations and the transformation of a township which was once considered to be one the most undesirable places to stay in Cape Town.

Khyelitsha and its local taverns, clubs, and artists make up a blank spot on Cape Towns’ digital map of places for entertainment. Although John made it out of the township he goes there every week for ‘fun’ and to establish his new business. ‘I cannot get Khayelitsha out of my system,’ he says and smiles ironically.

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