Monday, January 12, 2009

Soweto tour

We visited Soweto, the biggest black township in South Africa. It strethes out over more than 130 square kilometres southwest of the city of Joburg. Soweto is a combination of 21 townships, each with their own history and population. Soweto was proclaimed in 1904, and intended to house the black workers in the Johannesburg gold mines west of the city.
In the 1930s when the economic situation was bad and unemployment high, thousands of rural black set for Johannesburg trying to find a job. Orlando, one of the first townships, changed rapidly into a squatter region with the erection of corrugated iron huts on any piece of vacant land. For years local government could and would not meet the needs of those people.
Throughout the 1940s more and more people streamed up to this ‘native location’ south-west of the city. Situation even got worse when the Nationalist apartheid government in the 1950s started to re-locate black people by force from Sophiatown and other places within Johannesburg to Soweto. New suburbs as Meadowlands, Dobsonville, Kliptown and Pimville were born.
Life in Soweto was tough, pollution was high, mainly because most of the township lived without electricity and people had to rely on coal until the mid 1980s.
Services were limited and over-crowding immense. On average of 15-20 people were living in a single four-roomed matchbox house.

A painting on the side of the street of an old lady.

Kids heard we had candy, so they were more than willing to pose for us ;-)

Inside a corrugated shack where a family of 7 lives, mom, dad and 5 children!

A boy in front of his house.

No running water or electricity in these homes, this was the only waterpump for 1 whole street!

Day care centre.
The difference between rich and poor is very obvious and in your face in South Africa. These townships are hard to believe. That people still live in those conditions. Makes you sad and wanting to help, but it is in such a grand scale, no single person can help. Hardship, sorrow, sickness and poor living conditions is something these kids face every day. But still when we visited them they had a smile on their face and were happy to receive some candy and sweets we brought for them.

We also saw the High School where students on the 16 of June 1976 protested against Afrikaans as the official educational language. A bloodbath followed as the police fired at the students. We visited the Hector Peterson museum, build in remembrance of one of the students killed, a 13 year old boy. From there we went to Vilakazi Street, the only street where two Nobel Peace Prize winners lived: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president Nelson Mandela.

We drove by the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (Africa's largest teaching hospital), and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's R4 million mansion, although it has a stone fence around the house, so we couldn't see that much.

At the end we went to the Apartheid museum, but we were so tired, that we didn't feel like getting into it that much, it was a bit too long a day for the girls. So I have to go back to this museum again and see more of it.

A long and warm day, but interesting!

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