From soulful Soweto to sterile 'burbs: celebs on why they left the township

Migrants are torn between their roots and convenience

29 July 2018 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER

A quicker commute to the office and better property investments are two of the main reasons some South Africans have made the trek from the townships to the suburbs.
But the lure of the "seven-colours Sunday lunch", the Saturday car wash or the shisa nyama ensure they keep one foot in ekasi.
For choreographer and TV personality Somizi Mhlongo, his decision to move was driven by the need for privacy. The entertainer, who grew up in Orlando, Soweto, now lives in the plush Dainfern area in Johannesburg.
"I love the rhythm and the energy of the township. Every chance I get, I go back. The township made me who I am, so you can't take the ghetto out of me."
Last weekend artist Ntsiki Mazwai controversially tweeted that black people who opted to live in the suburbs were "broken" individuals, implying there was something wrong with seeing a home in the suburbs as a sign of status.For Mhlongo, though, "staying in the suburb is about privacy, because of the type of work I do".
The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dodged apartheid bullets in Soweto decades ago and remained in her home there until her death. Musician Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse stills finds inspiration in Soweto and so does soccer boss Irvin Khoza.
Papa Penny, the legendary Tsonga musician with his soufflé hairdo, has refused to forsake his village in Limpopo. He said those who lived in the suburbs weren't happy."It's not a good life there. People are living in debt. People are losing their houses and cars because they are trying to do what others in the suburbs are doing."
Businessman and socialite Kenny Kunene says his move from township to suburb was a matter of convenience.
"Where I come from everything was either walking distance or a short bicycle ride away," Kunene said.
Businessman Max Mqadi, owner of the trendy Max's Lifestyle restaurant in Umlazi outside Durban, pays for his mansion in upmarket Umhlanga Ridge with the profits from his township shisa nyama.Mqadi said aside from the investment potential, the only thing life in the suburbs was good for was sleep."In the suburbs you don't talk to your neighbour. If something is happening you can't go if you haven't been invited," Mqadi said.
He had adopted "the system of quietness" but missed the freedom to shout, which in the suburbs is regarded as "noise". He said he would only move back to the township "if I was broke".
Mhlongo said that when he retired he would go back to the township.
"In the township you can tell the time by looking at the people. From the dogs that are outside to the people with groceries on a Friday, the children playing in the street, that's how you can tell what day or time it is," he said.
"On a Saturday people are cleaning their yards, there's music playing, on a Sunday everyone is dressed for church, then it's the seven-colours lunch. Each day is different in a beautiful way."
For Kunene life in the suburb is "dry". "It's such a selfish life."
"In a township if you scream, people will help you. This is where mob justice comes from, it's the idea that if you live with us and terrorise us we must deal with you because we are one," he said.Rapper Cassper Nyovest, who grew up in a modest home in Montshioa village in Mahikeng, last year dropped R10-million on a flashy Johannesburg home. He said at the time he couldn't believe how his dreams had become a reality.
"It has so many rooms. I have a place for everyone. We also have a new studio and an entertainment area. I have been wanting to build it for some time and I finally have it now. A lot of good music is going to be coming from it."Actress Nomzamo Mbatha from KwaMashu says the township north of Durban still feels like home because her family live there and she visits them whenever possible. The Isibaya actress said she also stays in touch with township life because filming for the series takes place in Soweto.
"In the township if you want a vetkoek at 3pm you can get one," she said.
She added that she felt safer in Soweto than she did in Sandton, but wouldn't live in the township because the distance from the airport and the highway was a huge factor.
"There's nothing that beats a Soweto sunset, it's the most beautiful I've seen."

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