William and Mary Law School

Pool and Politics in a Township

Last Thursday evening, my boss, another intern from the US, and I went for a drink in the Langa township.  Established in 1932, Langa is the oldest township in Cape Town.  In Xhosa, Langa means “sun”; however, the township is named after Chief Langalibalele, who was imprisoned on Robben Island for rebelling against the government.  We entered the shebeen, a township tavern, named Tiger’s Place, which had a few patrons.  We ordered drinks from the bar, which was a small window enclosed by an iron security gate resembling an old-fashioned bank window.

My boss knew a few of the patrons and we began chatting with them.  They were interested in knowing where my fellow intern and I were from and asked us to play pool.  As we played a few games they asked me what I thought about Langa, Cape Town, and South Africa.  We had a couple more drinks and the discussion turned to politics.  One man began discussing how during apartheid the education available to black South African’s was extremely limited, while in other parts of Africa, such as in Zimbabwe, blacks had equal access to higher education.  The man stated that this disproportionate access to education led to black South Africans losing out to immigrants for jobs.  As an example, the man told us how he first used a computer in 1999 but was purposely trained incorrectly; whereas, Zimbabweans had knowledge and computer skills.

After shooting a few games of pool, we began to exit Tiger’s Place. My boss knew more patrons on the outside patio and we began speaking with them as well.  Again, they asked where I was from and the conversation turned to politics.  One man, named Deon, described how as humans we need one another in order to function in society.  He went on to describe humanity as a car and each person as a part of the engine.  Deon describe how without all the parts the engine does not function and cannot move forward.  I found the metaphor apt and beautiful.  We chatted for a few more minutes, then parted ways, and so, ended my night in Langa.