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Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum

March 8, 2013

lwandle-museum

The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum is a few kilometres down the road, situated just off the N2 outside Somerset West at the Old Community Hall, Vulindlela Street, Lwandle.

The museum reminds residents and visitors of the horrific living conditions that the migrant labour system imposed. Lwandle was established in 1958 with hostel type accommodation for workers in the nearby fruit and canning industry. These hostels were only intended for single men. Hostels provided very basic accommodation with four to six men occupying a small confined space, with an entire block sharing rudimentary ablution facilities. In the 1980s, as the control of the flow of people from rural areas was eased, these hostels became even more overcrowded. Facilities were not provided to sustain the increased population

With the onset of democracy in South Africa, the ANC led government turned the hostels of Lwandle into family type accommodation. Residents of the area felt that at least one hostel should be preserved to sustain a memory of how the system of apartheid had operated and decided to establish a museum. On Workers Day (1 May) 2000 the museum was officially opened by the poet and ex-Lwandle resident, Sandile Dikeni. The museum’s exhibits commemorate the trials, tribulations and triumphs of migrant workers and hostel life in Southern Africa. According to William Khanuka, one of Lwandle’s oldest residents, the museum is for people now as well as for the coming generations.

lwandle-walk

The Lwandle Township Walking Tour is highly recommended. You will feel comfortable and be in safe hands whilst meeting very special people. It starts from the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, the guided walk includes meeting the residents, visiting the Hector Peterson Library, Hostel 33, the Betheli Creche, the Town Square, the ‘Eiffel Tower’, shops, homes, a tavern and finally the Arts and Crafts Centre.

Hostel 33 was established in 1958 and many people over the years have lived in the cramped quarters of this small rectangular building. Families that stayed in hostel 33 in the 1980s tried to create some privacy but it was difficult with so many people living in such a small, confined space.

The Betheli pre-school was formerly a kitchen for migrant workers. Now it is a learning space for many of the young pre-schoolers in Lwandle.

The walk continues towards the home of Mr Robert Minenkulu Molo, a former hostel dweller, who served as a chairperson of governing board of Nomqophiso Primary school and Khanyolwethu Senior secondary school. He now serves as board member of the museum and Minister at the Church of Christ in Lwandle Community. Many visitors love to talk to him about the changes in Lwandle and South Africa since 1994. The Lwandle business area is where visitors experience the typical Kasi or township market. Shebeens and taverns are also on this road.

For more information on bookings and opening times visit the Lwandle Museum website.

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