Kathorus: rich in spiritual traditions and beliefs
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Katlehong, a township 30 minutes east of Johannesburg, was established in the 1950s. It became a location for migrant workers coming to work in the mines on the Johannesburg Reef.
Today Katlehong is fused with two other townships, Vosloorus and Thokoza, and hence named Kathorus. It consists of a number of informal settlements with a history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle in the early 1990s. Much of this struggle was accompanied by intense violence, mostly concentrated in and around the mine hostels; single-sex living quarters in which men from the rural areas were forced to live in abominable conditions.
The following extract gives a short explanation of the reasons for the bitter conflict that ensued in this area:
“Thokoza had the highest death toll of any township during the four years of war that began in 1990, shortly before Mandela’s release…. Thokoza is a small, nondescript township. The main road, Khumalo Street, runs north-south for four kilometres through an elongated triangle from one set of migrant workers’ hostels to another. At its southern end, Khumalo Street turns east for a further two kilometres until it reaches three more hostels…, grouped together and neighbouring the Katlehong township…. The conflict in Thokoza pitted the hostel-dwellers against local householders, migrants against residents……Most residents owed allegiance to the ANC, and relied for protection on volunteers who grouped themselves into self-defence units made up of militant youths and the occasional trained guerrillas who were given weapons by the armed wings of the liberation movements. Inside the hostels, the Zulu inhabitants were almost all combatants linked to other hostels by a controlling web of indunas or headmen, taking orders from the Inkatha leadership. This networking ensured the conflict spread rapidly from township to township, and that the ubiquitous hostels were at the centre of every conflict.”
(The Bang-Bang Club, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, 2000, Random House (Pty) Ltd, South Africa, pg 85 – 86)
Today the most famous of these hostels – the one in Khumalo Street – called “Mshayazafe” (Beat him to death) is open to visitors and boasts a richness of cultural traditions and customs practise mostly by the Zulu people.
Kathorus is also fast gaining a reputation as an area rich in spiritual traditions and beliefs, ranging from a number of African independent churches to centres that ordain sangomas (traditional healers).
Kathorus is, therefore, an ideal and fascinating place to experience African culture in a modern society. The home of an esteemed inyanga (herbalist) houses a recording studio where young people learn about modern communication systems. Saturday classes are run for the youth by the African Heritage Kara Institute, and there is an Art Centre that showcases local talent.
Your guide will be a local person who has grown up and lived in this area all his life, and who has experienced both the pain of the past and the hope of the future.