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Manenberg is located in Western Cape
Manenberg is located in South Africa
Manenberg is located in Africa
 Manenberg shown within Western Cape
Coordinates: 33°59′S 18°33′E / 33.983°S 18.550°E / -33.983; 18.550Coordinates: 33°59′S 18°33′E / 33.983°S 18.550°E / -33.983; 18.550
Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
Municipality City of Cape Town
Main Place Athlone
 • Total 3.35 km2 (1.29 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 52,877
 • Density 16,000/km2 (41,000/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African 11.7%
 • Coloured 84.3%
 • Indian/Asian 0.5%
 • White 0.1%
 • Other 3.4%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • Afrikaans 71.8%
 • English 17.8%
 • Xhosa 6.8%
 • Other 3.6%
Postal code (street) 7764
PO box 7764
Area code 021

Manenberg is a township of Cape Town, South Africa, that was created by the apartheid government for low-income Coloured families in the Cape Flats in 1966[2] as a result of the force removal campaign by the National Party. It has an estimated population of 52,000 residents. The area consists of rows of semi-detached houses and project-like flats, known as "korre". The township is located about 20 km away from the city centre of Cape Town. It is separated from neighbouring Nyanga and Gugulethu townships by a railway line to the east and from Hanover Park by the Sand Industria industrial park to the west and Heideveld to the north.


In 1975 the area consisted of about seven corner shops and two liquor outlets. There were no adequate commercial facilities or community services. A railway line from the black township of Gugulethu divides Manenberg. Nyanga Railway Station was established to service the growing population of Gugulethu and Manenberg. The outer boundaries can be traced by following Duinefontein Road which runs, for the most part, parallel to the railway line, to where it meets Lansdowne Road to the south and Klipfontein Road to the north.

The roads, the public amenities, access to shops, access to railways, buses and access to employment were designed to put residents other than whites at a disadvantage. These policies helped keep people entrapped to this day.

The streets of Manenberg were named after rivers.[citation needed] The flats or "courts" were given female names such as Nellie or Mathilda Court, with the exception of the old Alpha and Omega Court, both situated at the entry point to Manenberg.

Later in the mid-1980s, because of housing shortages and problems around squatting in Manenberg, 364 additional buildings known as maisonettes (or as ‘infill scheme’) were built. These had three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, hot water, and a toilet and were regarded as better accommodation units.

It is argued[by whom?] that the housing conditions and the basic design of Manenberg played a major role in how this community took it upon themselves to resist and partake in the call for making South Africa ungovernable. Residents of Manenberg have had a long and strong tradition in being involved in the anti-apartheid movements during the 1970s to 1990s.[citation needed] From the national 1976 riots to the meat boycotts of 1981 to the United Democratic Front UDF and Mass Democratic Movement era of the early to late 1980s. Manenberg had activists that helped make South Africa ungovernable, many of which were trained by the African National Congress ANC in the underground movement.[citation needed]

Early activism in the 1970s and 1980s in Manenberg[edit]

Community activists like Faldielah de Vries, Frank Gutuza, Rushdi Majiet, Keith Karl Dumas and others mobilized residents in Manenberg around the housing and living conditions. Grassroots newspaper was a newspaper that was started in 1980. It gained a reputation for being part of the alternative press movement in the 1980s. It was the first of a series of anti-apartheid community newspapers, with a circulation that grew up to 20 000. A Grassroots article dated March 1980 “Manenberg Tenants Stand Firm” explains that 600 residents protested against broken toilets, unpainted homes and formed the Duinefontein Tenants Association (DTA). Mr. Rushdi Majiet was elected chairperson and he had a committee of twelve people who assisted residents in drawing up petitions against rent increases. The Association has elected a steering executive consisting of Mr. Frank Gutuza, a director of the Silvertree Youth Centre and Mr. Majiet as chairperson.

From the 1970s right through the 1990s, numerous community and civic movements and organisations were established making inroads into garnering support for the betterment of Manenberg. These organizations were the Manenberg Civic Association, Manenberg Educational Movement, the Manenberg Youth Organisation, Manenberg Area Committee, Call of Islam, Minister‟s Organisation, Manenberg People’s Centre, Duinefontein Tenants Association, Students‟ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation SHAWC, Silvertree Youth Centre, Self Help Manenberg, Salvation Army, Community Counselling Training Centre, Urban Renewal Organisation and the Manenberg Community Police Forum.[3]

Present day[edit]

The area over the years has become overcrowded and living conditions problematic with a high incidence of crime, gangsterism and social disturbance emerging.[citation needed] Manenberg was featured in the National Geographic television series Taboo: Blood Bonds for its street gangs, particularly "The Americans", "Hard Living" and "Clever Kids."

Graffiti exhibits portraying gangster life are prominent in Manenberg. Tupac Shakur features strongly in exhibits of the Hard Livings gang due to his rap lyrics detailing life in poverty.

The feature documentary Manenberg[4] (2010) by directors/anthropologists Karen Waltorp & Christian Vium (Denmark)[5] about two young people coming of age in the community.

Popular culture[edit]

The famous and well respected jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim has a composition named "Mannenberg" after the township. Manenberg has a rich history of minstrel (Kaapse Klopse) music and several minstrel teams still emanate from this part of Cape Town.



  1. ^ Part of this article is a summarised excerpt of my MA Thesis. J. Jacobs (2011) Manenberg: Then and Now: Activism in Manenberg, 1980 to 2010. Unpublished thesis (MA), University of the Western Cape.