Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tour of Soweto

The evening of April 10th, we met our friend Randy Thompson at the airport in Cape Town.  He had also been visiting there and he traveled back to Jo'burg with us on the same flight.  The next morning the three of us did a tour of Soweto. Soweto (an abbreviation of South West Township) is an area of Johannesburg that became known to the world during the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976.  On this day, approximately 15,000 school children marched in protest of being taught in Afrikaans (a South African Language originated by the Dutch) rather than in English, which is one of the languages they spoke and understood.

The children were met with resistance by the local police force who began firing on them.  During the first day of the uprising 23 people lost their lives.  As news of the uprising spread around the world, it drew attention to the Apartheid Government of South Africa.  Although it took another 14 years before the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, the uprising was seen as one of the events that eventually helped bring an end to Apartheid sometime around the mid 90's.

Soweto today is an area of extreme contrasts.  There are roughly 1.3 to 1.7 million people living here and while most of them are living in extreme poverty, there are also those who live in million dollar homes. It made for an interesting tour and we learned allot about the history of South Africa that day.

This is one of the homes of the wealthy in Soweto...

...while just down the road were these government housing buildings with no running water or electricity.

The government today is building these new apartment buildings.  There's a long waiting list of people who would like to move in to these new buildings as they become completed, but the list is so long that many people don't bother even putting their names on it.

This is the home of Nelson Mandela.  We also saw the homes of Winnie Mandela and Desmond Tutu

Part of our tour was to visit the Hector Pieterson Museum.  Hector was a 13 year old boy who became the iconic image of the uprising as he was one of the youngest students killed that first day.  The museum was a great place to learn about the struggle of living under apartheid.

This is a monument outside the museum describing the events of the day

This photo is on a monument outside the museum.  It shows Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying the body of Hector Pieterson to the site of the current museum.  This photo was printed in newspapers around the world helping to expose the practices of apartheid.

After the museum, we visited some of the poorer areas of the township.  The number 146 on the side of the shack lists the occupants number in line for the new government housing.

This is the home of Gladys, shown below.  She lives in this tin shack with her three children and she was kind enough to let us look around her place.  As you can see she has a 46 written on her home.

A couple of children in Soweto

These kids wanted their photo taken with Dave

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