Foreign Policy Magazine

Street Smart

Why South Africa’s formerly segregated townships are still central to its imagination.

“YOU NEED TO SEE MY FRIEND’S GUN,” Mophethe Thebe said in a gas station parking lot in Soweto, the famous swath of townships southwest of Johannesburg. He promised this was a good way to understand the meaning of a South African word coined more than a half-century ago: ekasi. Today, the word—sometimes rendered as kasi—serves as the name for bars and restaurants, finds its way into hip-hop lyrics, and makes up the moniker for one of Johannesburg’s top radio stations. But ekasi’s ubiquity isn’t simply cultural; its fluid definition mirrors political debates about South Africa’s future.

Technically, ekasi is just the Zulu term for “township,” a segregated neighborhood where black people were forced to live under apartheid. But it also

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Foreign Policy Magazine

Foreign Policy Magazine6 min readPolitics
Catching China by the Belt (and Road)
WILL THE DEVELOPING WORLD FALL UNDER CHINA’S SWAY? Many policymakers in Washington certainly fear so, which is one of the reasons they have created the new International Development Finance Corp. (IDFC), which is slated to begin operating at the end
Foreign Policy Magazine2 min read
How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States DANIEL IMMERWAHR, FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, 528 PP., $30, FEBRUARY 2019 WHEN MOST PEOPLE PICTURE A MAP OF THE UNITED STATES, they usually envision what is known as the lower 48—the cont
Foreign Policy Magazine11 min read
How to Win America’s Next War
The era of untrammeled U.S. military superiority is over. If the United States delays implementing a new approach, it risks losing a war to China or Russia—or backing down in a crisis because it fears it would—with devastating consequences for Americ