The term Township in South Africa refers to underdeveloped racially segregated urban areas in the country. These areas are mostly situated on the outskirts of cities and towns in South Africa. History reports that under apartheid, Black South Africans were mandated to reside in dormitory-styled townships that were built far away from economic city centres. However, post-apartheid development policies have resulted in the construction of townships with government housing.
The Top 10 Biggest Townships in South Africa include Soweto, Thembisa, Katlehong, Umlazi, Soshanguve, Khayelitsha, Mamelodi, Mitchells Plain, Ibhayi, and Sebokeng. South Africa has extensive informal settlements on the outskirts of urban areas. World Bank reports that half of the urban population in South Africa lives in Townships and informal settlements which include 38% of working-class citizens and 60% of unemployed people.
Top 10 Biggest Townships in South Africa
Soweto is an abbreviation for South Western Townships and it is a popular place as well as the biggest township in South Africa. It is located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Gauteng Province and it is largely dominated by blacks.
Soweto covers a land area of about 200.03 square kilometres and has a population of about 1,271,628 people. Eleven of the official languages in South Africa are spoken in Soweto and it houses about 335,332 households.
Thembisa is located north of Kempton Park, Gauteng Province. The name of the township was derived from a Nguni word that means hope and promise.
Thembisa covers a land area of 42.80 square Kilometers and has a population of over 463,109 people. Ivory Park is a famous place in Thembisa and the founders of the townships were filled with promise and hope for a brighter tomorrow for the residents.
Created in 1945, Katlehong has evolved into a high-density community around Johannesburg, Gauteng Province. The Township is located east of Johannesburg and south of Germiston and it covers a land area of 55.36 square kilometres with a population of over 407,811 people. The Township has six informal settlements in the southern part and has become overcrowded as people have erected shacks for rent.
Umlazi is renowned as the only township with its registration plate in South Africa. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal province, southwest of Durban town with a land area of 47.46 square Kilometers and a population of over 404,811 people. The township has 26 sections and is replete with various private and government investments. The township can boast of its Police Stations and Clinics as well.
Soshanguve is located in Gauteng province, north of Pretoria. The township covers a land area of 126.77 square Kilometers with a population of over 403,162 people. Soshanguve is famous for the Tshwane North College (TNC) and it is the fifth biggest township in South Africa. The Township is replete with people from different ethnic groups.
Khayelitsha is another large township in South Africa that is unique in its own right and is located on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, Western Cape Province. The Township covers a land area of 38.71 square Kilometers with a population of over 391,749 people and a population density of about 10,000 people per square kilometre. It is recognized as one of the fastest-growing townships in South Africa and it is replete with both black and white South Africans as well as other ethnicities.
Mamelodi was created during the apartheid government in Pretoria, Gauteng Province. It is located in Tshwane City and it covers a land area of 45.19 square kilometres with a population of over 334,577 people. The township is part of the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and is quite a famous area.
8. Mitchells Plain
Mitchells Plains is one of the biggest suburbs as well as townships in South Africa. The township is located 28 kilometres away from Cape Town City, Western Cape Province and it covers a land area of 43.76 square kilometres with a population of over 310,485 and a population density of 7,100 people per square kilometre.
The Township can boast of some big shopping centres as well as a central business district. It is one of the biggest residential areas in South Africa and it is projected that relevant stakeholders will keep working on proper growth in the township.
This township is located around Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape Province and it covers a land area of 36.06 square Kilometers with a population of over 237,799 people and a population density of 6,600 people per square kilometre. The Township has 16 subdivisions and it is one of the biggest townships in South Africa.
Sebokeng is the tenth biggest township in South Africa and it is located around Vanderbijlpark, and Vereeniging, Southern Gauteng with a lingua franca of Sotho which is popular in the township. Sebokeng in Sotho means a Gathering place and it was created by the apartheid government in 1965.
The Township is largely black but there has been an inflow of other racial groups in the township. The Township covers a land area of 46.45 square kilometres with a population of over 218,515 people and a population density of 4,700 people per square kilometre. The Township is home to Vaal University of Technology, Sebokeng Campus and FET College, Sedibeng.
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Townships in South Africa are known as areas selected for black and coloured nationalities to reside under the apartheid legislation. Townships have since experienced a lot of transformation after the apartheid and are fast becoming tourist destinations in their rights. Tourists could volunteer as sports coaches, try out a cooking class or relish a day of cultural exchange with township residents.
Asides from the biggest townships discussed in this piece, there are several other big townships in South Africa which include Ivory Park, Alexandra, and Manguang amongst others. I would to know if you would love to visit any of the townships discussed in this piece or if you live in one of them. Please feel free to tell me in the comment section below as I am looking forward to reading from you.