The silent, rolling hills of the Cape Peninsula engulf the buzzing community of Masiphumelele. Indeed, the landscape provides a contrast between the quiet luxury communities of Capri Village and Sunnydale that perch on its peaks, and the valley that contains the lively streets of Masiphumelele, known to locals simply as “Masi.” The peninsula is home to the poorest members of the Western Cape region, but also to the richest members of the province- but these roles are flipped depending on how one defines “rich” and “poor”. Yes, the stately columns of the mansions that flank the hills are gorgeous- but a sense of ubuntu is lacking on the deserted streets of Capri. Just across the street, people spill out from their homes onto the lanes of Masi, carrying babies on their backs, chatting with shopkeepers, and playing sports. Everyone seems to know each other, and moreover, wants to converse with each other- privacy is not a concept in Masi. While privacy is jealously guarded in many wealthy neighborhoods, these neighborhoods lack the hum of a tiny township in which energy is infectious and makes you want to get up from your TV and just live. This is the beauty of Masi- a town of water and fire.

Street Talk TV has been exploring Masiphumelele, and documenting the unique qualities of the town. We have spoken with members of a rugby program in town, the manager of a local creche, and various residents of the town. Each resident plays a unique and purposeful role in the makeup of the community. They exemplify the “fire”, or spirit, of the community, despite the floods of water that they have endured, both literally and metaphorically. Stay tuned to hear their stories.

-Roz KennyBirch

A Picture of Masi:

“We will succeed” is a quote that is an authentic description of Masiphumelele, a town with a clear sense of vibrancy and hope nestled into the mountains of the peninsula. Thus, it comes as no surprise that this quote is exactly what Masiphumelele means in Xhosa. While Masi is one of the smaller townships in the greater Cape Town area, at just 20,000 to 30,000 residents, the soul of the settlement indeed makes the tiny township a lively force in the Fish Hoek valley. The VDP Bakery and Vegetable Gardens, the Living Hope Community Center (a church-based charity that helps those living with HIV/AIDS), and the Adult Literacy project can all be found in the town, and are just a few examples of the extensive resources available in Masi. Charlotte Nomthunzi Swartbooi, a community leader, raves in particular about the Bicycle Empowerment Network, an organization which gathers old and broken bicycles, fixes them, and sells them for a good price to locals. Goods of all sorts are available on the streets, and local hangouts ranging from hair salons to food stores are often filled to the brim with chatting people. Masi was originally created by residents from Khayelitsha when Apartheid ended, so that they could live closer to where they worked (which was in Fish Hoek). Approximately twenty years later, Masi has retained its original identity as an area of hope and proximity- with both water and fire mixed in for good measure.

-Roz KennyBirch