Hip Hip Hooray! Gugs turn 50

2009-10-16 10:28

THE township of Gugulethu, 20km outside Cape Town, began celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. It is remembering its role in the struggle against apartheid but also highlighting a series of upcoming events planned to showcase this large and vibrant township.

Gugulethu, a Xhosa name meaning “our pride”, was established by the apartheid-era government in the late 1950s due to the overcrowding of Langa township, which was the only black residential area in the Mother City at the time.

"Gugs", as it is affectionately known, has about 110 000 residents. It has a long, well documented and rich history in the struggle against apartheid and is also a South African cultural and entertainment hub. In fact, its apartheid legacy is marked by the memory of seven young activists who were gunned down by the apartheid security forces in 1986 and became known as the Gugulethu Seven.

About 500 people attended an event held at the Gugulethu Sports Complex yesterday to mark the beginning of the 50 year celebrations. The event was attended by the chief whip of the National Council of Provinces and deputy president of the ANC Women’s League Nosipho Ntwanambi, deputy human settlements minister Zoe Kota and  local businessman Mzoli Ngcawuzele, who all hail from this sprawling township.

Ntwanambi said she was proud of having been born in Gugulethu and was proud of her roots. She joked saying that she hoped the township would produce another chief whip, but was quick to condemn gangsterism in the area.

Controversial ANC national executive committee member and former governing party’s chief whip Tony Yengeni also comes from Gugulethu.

A resident, Nosipho Bunyula (51), said life had changed in the township. Her age group grew up in a Gugulethu which was safe to around at night without fear.

“Today our youth fill shebeens and when they get drunk they get violent. We get scared walking the streets these days coming home from work.”

A Grade 11 learner at Fezeka High School in the township, Busisiwe Somi (16), said: “There is a lot of pressure among my peers, but it is up to an individual which road they choose. I think it was very hard to live here back in the apartheid years, but today it is even harder because there is crime and drugs.”

Some of the events planned to focus attention on Gugs include the Annual iTownship Wine Festival (29 October to 1 November), which is in its second year running, a Big Walk event on 8 November and a youth radio show that started with its training early this month.

The 50+ Steering Committee member Geoffrey Mamputa said Gugulethu has a history of arts and culture and that the upcoming 50th anniversary events were designed to showcase the talent of Gugulethu people and also to leave a lasting legacy for the local youth.

Another committee member, Nosipho Singiswa, said these events formed part of an on-going programme of arts, culture, education and recreation that would take place in Gugulethu over the next seven years. – West Cape News

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