Khanya History Programme

About the Programme: 

Khanya working Class History Programme includes three projects, the Popular History Project, the South African Intellectual Life Project and the Workers, Migrants and Compounds Project.


For many activists the history of the liberation movement and its various organisations is being lost or forgotten. A sense of history will assist activists and the mass organisations to build on past experience in movement building and to develop alternatives to the present global order.

Some of the projects of this programme are courses on the history of social movements, on the social and economic history of South Africa, and courses on the history of women in the struggle against apartheid. In keeping with all Khanya programmes, the programme seeks to raise awareness about the place of South Africa in the history of the region. Workshops, publications, research and various public events form part of the way this programme is delivered.

Read less...
Workers' Walks

The Working Class History Programme regularly offers Workers' Walks at the Workers Museum in Newtown. At these Walks, ex-residents of the Newtown Municipal Workers' Compound, guide visitors through the heritage site and permanent exhibition of the museum. Visitors can engage with the former residents on historical and contemporary issues of compound life, migration and work. The Walks offer a very unique and first hand individual account of the history of compounds in Johannesburg and are not to be missed. For more information on the next upcoming Walk, please contact us. 

Workers Museum and Newtown Tours
In addition to the Workers' Walks, the Working Class History Programme also offers tours of the Workers Museum and Newtown's cultural precinct with accredited tour guides on demand. The young heritage guides have been especially trained to give visitors an informed and entertaining experience of Newtown, its heritage buildings, arts and cultural highlights like the Workers Museum, the Market Theatre, Mary Fitzgerald Square and Museum Africa.
The following tours are on offer:
There are two options of either a 1-hour tour or a 3-hour tour.

 1-Hour Tour of Newtown
The 1-hour tour of Newtown begins in the Market Theatre parking area and our site guide navigates Newtown moving from heritage marker to heritage marker, telling the story of the birth of Newtown, Kippies, Potato Sheds and Railway Sidings, Market Theatre, Museum Africa and Mary Fitzgerald Square. The next stop is the Electrical Precinct which covers the story of Johannesburg’s first power stations and includes the Electric Workshop, Turbine Hall, SAB World of Beer, and the Workers Museum. The Transport Precinct is next and covers the city’s transport history, as well as Newtown’s cultural organisations which are situated within this area of Newtown, and include Dance Factory, Moving into Dance, Bassline, Market Photo Workshop, Artist Proof Studio, and Market Lab. Due to limited time, the tour does not include exploring the inside of these buildings.
1-Hour Tour of the Workers Museum
The 1-hour tour of the Workers Museum will give you an insight to how life was like in a 1913 built migrant labour hostel and how the history of migrant labour has shaped South Africa's society and that of the neighbouring countries. You will get a comprehensive overview of the museum's highly informative permanent exhibition and heritage site. Our tour guides are always happy to accommodate your own particular interest allowing you a better understanding of the history and heritage of migrant labour. If on show, access to special exhibitions is also included in the 1-hour Workers Museum tour.
3-Hour Tour of Newtown
The 3-hour tour of the Newtown precinct covers the same buildings and venues as the 1-hour tour (see above), but visitors are given the opportunity to visit the Market Theatre, Museum Africa, the Workers Museum and Sci-Bono Discovery Centre. An optional extra on request is a look inside the majestic and exquisitely restored Turbine Hall.
Commercial rates
Short tour (approx 1 hour)
R250 for groups of 1 to 3 and R80 per additional person (up to 10)
Long tour (entering venues; approx 3 hours)
R450 for groups of 1 to 3 and R120 per additional person (up to 10)
Non-commercial rates including schools, NGOs, communities and unions
Short tour (approx 1 hour) R250 per group (up to 30 in a group)
Long tour (approx 3 hours) R450 per group (up to 30 in a group)
For bookings of all our tours, please phone us on 011 336 9190 (Kwanele) or email


Read less...
Migrant Workers Project

This project aims to contribute towards the preservation and popularisation of the heritage of migrant workers in South Africa while raising awareness of the challenges and social injustices hostel residents face today. By linking the history of the segregationist, exploitative and oppressive migrant labour and compound system of the 20th century with the reality in hostels today, the project also aims to prevent xenophobia and contribute positively to an inclusive and diverse South African society.


The objectives of the Project are to:

  1. Raise awareness and educate about the built and living heritage of migrant workers as well as about contemporary challenges of hostel housing systems in South Africa, particularly Gauteng
  2. Raise awareness of the importance of preserving the built and living heritage of the migrant labour system and single-sex housing system in South Africa
  3. Raise awareness among hostel residents and their surrounding communities of the historic origins of their socio-economic living conditions
  4. Foster a dialogue between hostel residents, the surrounding community, the wider public and youth on issues of hostel housing
  5. Raise awareness of the potential of photography and oral history as historical sources and as audio/visual cultural expression on social and heritage issues


  • Host educational events at the Workers Museum on the history of migrant labour and its importance for Southern Africa today
  • Produce a series of educational publications including a newsletter, brochures, posters and booklets
  • Conduct research on the history of migrant labour and its impact on present-day Southern Africa
  • Create exhibitions on the history and heritage of migrant labour in Southern Africa
  • Build an archive on hostels and compounds in Gauteng
  • Host cultural events that celebrate the heritage of migrant workers


Partners of the Workers Compound Project

Workers Museum

Market Photo Workshop

Wits History Workshop


For more information contact:

Anne-Katrin Bicher
Phone: 084 2002 614


Read less...
A public tour at the Workers Museum

n/aRead less...
Popular History Project

South Africa has a rich history of social struggles and social organisations. This history has many lessons for the present attempts at building a social justice movement, and for present attempts to develop alternatives to neoliberalism. This history encompasses a rich experience of organisational building questions, campaign and strategy issues, and social and economic alternatives to present neoliberal policies.


The objectives of the Project are to:

  1. Build the present social justice movement through popularisation of working class history
  2. Develop resources for conducting history education and research
  3. Open spaces to debate strategic and organisational challenges facing the working class in the present period of globalisation by providing a context in which strategic and organisational choices were made by the working class movement in the past
  4. Promote an appreciation and understanding of the role of women in the development of the South African working class
  5. Promote an appreciation and understanding of working class culture and its history.


  • Produce a series of publications on the history of the working class movement in South Africa
  • Network with other institutions doing similar work internationally (e.g. building a network of community museums in Southern Africa)
  • Host conferences and other educational events to deepen the present social justice movement’s understanding of the history of the working class
Read less...
South African Intellectual Life Project

Against the background of apartheid authoritarianism South Africans and their organisations developed many ideas on a variety of issues concerning democratization and the building of an alternative society. This project seeks to explore these ideas and make them available to the present social justice movement as it explores alternatives to neoliberalism.


The objectives of the Project are to:

  1. Make the ideas of various South African anti-apartheid campaigners available to the present social justice movement
  2. Promote a culture of debate within the present social justice movement


  • Produce a series of booklets of history of anti-apartheid intellectual life in South Africa
  • Produce intellectual biographical studies
  • Host seminars to discuss ideas dealing with issues facing the social justice movement.
Read less...