Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum

The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum pays tribute to the thousands of migrant labourers who suffered under the apartheid system.

One of two museums in South Africa that focuses on labour, has won numerous awards and has been crowned Best Museum in the Western Cape 2014/15

Outside Somerset West, just 40km (25mi) from Cape Town, you’ll find the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum. The memorial recalls the harsh apartheid system of migrant labour in which many thousands of black South Africans had to leave their families to find work close to the cities.

The museum is a reminder of the horrific living conditions that the migrant labour system imposed on the workers. The single-sex hostels remain a blight on South Africa’s conscience and the pass-book system remains one of apartheid’s greatest evils.

Lwandle was established in 1958 with hostel accommodation for workers in the fruit and canning industry. The hostels were intended for single men only and the conditions were appalling, with four to six men occupying a small, confined space and sharing the most rudimentary ablution facilities.

After South Africa’s democracy in 1994, the government turned the hostels into family-type accommodation. Residents felt that there should be a reminder of the way their people had been treated and so it was decided to establish a museum.

The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was officially opened on May 1, 2000. The exhibits commemorate the trials, tribulations and triumphs of migrant workers and hostel life in Southern Africa.

Here you can learn more about the migrant labour system that shaped many of the social problems South Africa has today. Walk through an original hostel and see the conditions for yourself. Spend time with members of the community and hear their real stories first-hand.

While you’re here, enjoy a walk around Lwandle township and meet some of the locals along the way. The township walk starts from the museum and includes visiting the Hector Pieterson Library, the famous Hostel 33, the Town Square, a tavern, shops and homes as well as the arts and crafts centre.

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