Thursday 30 March 2006
Highlights: Emotional visit Soweto township
After taking the guard dogs for a walk with the host of the Jo-Burg Inn (I was the only guest last night) I headed off on a tour of Soweto. Soweto is the home of the initial uprisings in South Africa and some of the poorest people in this country. It is a township that boost to Nobel Peace prize residents in Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu. I visited with Sarah (USA) & Laura (UK) or a tour.
The white government created Soweto so it could have the black population as far enough as possible away from Jo-burg but close enough to come to work. They created a total of 11 hostels. A room in a hostel used to host up to 11 people. There were 10 male hostels and 1 female one. There was (and still is) no running water or electric power in the hostels. In addition to these official hostels squatters created tin unit to house themselves. These ‘houses’ are usually one room only (no toilet, power or water). I was lucky enough to be invited into one. This very small room housed 5 people. I have to say however the sense of community here is very strong.
People here have limited water (only allow outside the ‘house’), one toilet per 120 residents, no power, no employment benefits, no free medical care however they have managed to build a roof for themselves, they plant their food and appeared to all looked after each individual. I got a big feeling of hope from the residents (something I don’t always get from the white citizens).
From here I visited Nelson Mandela old house which is now a museum. Sugar Ray Leonard donated his world title belt to Nelson and it is on display. I also visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial. Hector was a 13 year old boy who was shot by police in 1976. A famous photo shows his brother carrying him home (his brother disappeared after the photo was taken). I also visited the Regina Mundi Church which is where the local citizens used to hold gatherings to discuss how to organise against the government. This was the only place blacks could gather in more than 3 people groups. The church still has bullet holes from the numerous times police and the army opened fire. The Truth & Reconciliation Tribunal held some sessions in this church.
Lastly I visited inner city Jo-burg. I found the first part of my tour uplifting but visiting the once great city was depressing. Illegal immigrants from other countries have taken over and in a lot of places have taken over shopping centres. Much of the city is a fire trap. No South Africans, black or white, are happy with the situation in the CBD, there are very little citizen living there. It is a no go area for most of the population black or white.