The weather was miraculously perfect for a six-kilometer walk. We wound through Katlehong and Thokoza, visiting spaza shops and street-side cafés and historical sites, chatting with each other and those we met along the way. Bongani, our host, walked us past his family home and explained what it was like to grow up in Katlehong in the early 1990s, when a deadly war broke out as the apartheid regime came to an end.
We learned about the history of spaza shops — which became a lifeline during a time when South Africa’s retail food chain didn’t reach most South Africans — and how the spaza shop industry has evolved and adapted over time. We ate pap and ox liver and spicy boerewors. We drank ice-cold Fanta from a glass bottle, which tastes so much better than Fanta from a plastic bottle. We walked down a residential street that used to be an airplane runway.
We visited Kumalo Street in Thokoza, where the biggest battles of the 1990s were fought, and learned about the origin of the conflict between ANC and IFP supporters during that time. We rode in a taxi driven by a man who was once shot 16 times.
Have you ever felt like you’re witnessing the start of something really special — something no one knows about yet except for the small, privileged group around you in that moment? I felt that way on Saturday.
Walking Katlehong and Thokoza
I’ve done a lot of walking tours in and around Joburg. I’ve never met a walking tour I didn’t like. But there’s something about walking around this area that speaks to me in a particular way…I don’t know how to explain it.
I have far too many photos from this walk. Deciding which ones to share is agonizing.
At the end of the walk, which took about four hours, we all gathered at African Accent for a braai organized by Bongani’s mother. We stuffed ourselves, shot a group picture, and prepared to drive home.
When I went to leave, I realized my car’s battery was dead and I was also locked out of the car. (Long story.) So my friend Joy and I waited around African Accent for two hours until a locksmith showed up, which was not the end of the world. We got to hang out longer with our new Katlehong friends, and I took more photos in the golden afternoon light.
The next #SpazaShopTour takes place on 31 October. If you’d like to book, sign up here.