Thursday, 7 October 2010

Johannesburg, Soweto Tour, Nelson Mandela Square and new friends.

We had booked tickets to do a Soweto tour, which was recommended by our friends Peter and Mary. I think before we started our trip across Johannesburg, Nicole was a bit ‘nervous’ because of all of the stories she had heard. Phil had been to Johannesburg many times before, and knew the difference between the ‘stories’ and reality, however, this was the first time that he had his family with him.

Nicole’s anxiety levels dropped as soon as we got into the the tour minivan. The tourguide and driver, Thulasizwe  was a local who still lives in Soweto.  He aspires to save up enough money to be able to buy a house in the affluent suburb of Soweto called, Diepkloof, and by a BMW.  BMW stands for "Be My Wife".  If you have a BMW, you can find a girl to marry easier!

Our first stop was at the Soccer City Stadium or FNB Stadium in Soweto, used for the 2010 World Cup.  What a great stadium, and the colours  really suited the environment.  The design of the stadium is inspired by the shape of a fruit called the calabash (a type of gourd), which when hollowed out is a common African pot.  The stadium can hold around 85,000 people.

Soweto's first foundations began around 1886, when African workers were brought into Johannesburg to work in the goldmines. The African workers were housed here. In 1904 African and Indian people were  removed from the city of Johannesburg to live in townships southwest of Johannesburg.
The current population of Soweto is approx 1.3 million people.  There are 11 official languages spoken in Soweto, the most spoken are Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, and Tsonga.
The problems that Soweto face are poor housing, overcrowding, high unemployment.  Shacks made of corrugated iron sheets, and anything else that can be found can be seen for miles.  In some of the poorest areas there is a central tap that bring their buckets to fill, and port-a-loos are lined up in rows which are emptied 2-3 times a week.

Soweto has a huge amount of history attached to it in regards to the apartheid. Vilakazi Street, in Orlando West in Soweto is the most famous street in South Africa.  It is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners – former President Nelson Mandela, 1993 and Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, 1984.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu's home
 Nelson Mandela's home is now a museum.
 Winnie Mandela's home.
The South African Government has developed a Housing Policy to try and assist the growing population with this policy.  It's a huge undertaking but we really hope it works.

 Not a great photo, but you can click on it to enlarge to see the new housing that is being constructed in Soweto.
It's very basic, but it would be better to live in one of these, than having a family living in these.(These home are the original homes of the African workers bought in to work in the goldmines in 1885, and are still being used by families)
These are the homes in Kliptown, the poorest district in Soweto, made from corrugated iron and whatever else can be found.

We visited Kliptown and the Freedom Charter Monument.

On 26 June 1955, over 3 000 representatives of resistance groups met at Kliptown to draw up the Freedom Charter.  The Freedom Charter was an alternative alternative vision to the policies of the then current rules of apartheid.
The full text of the Freedom Charter can be found at this link.  A really interesting insightful read!

June 16th 1976, is now known as the Soweto Uprising.  Students led protests to oppose the introduction of Affrikaans as the main langauge to be taught in schools. They left their school and intended to walk to Orland Stadium. It is estimated over 20,000 students took part in the protests. The police had closed off one of the main roads that the students intended to walk down, so they changed their route. A shot was fired from a policeman, and then panic surged through the crowd.  Hector Pieterson was the first student to be shot.  He was 13 years old. It is estimated that over 500 people were killed in the week following.  We spent some time in the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial A moving and heartbreaking museum which explained the Soweto Uprising.

Outside was a memorial to Hector, and Thulasizwe pointed out Hector's sister who was standing close by.


We visited the Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Soweto's largest Catholic Church. It played a significant part in the Soweto Uprising on June 16th 1976,where students took shelter in the church.  The police burst into the church after throwing teargas through the windows and fired bullets.  No-one was killed, but the church still shows the marks of the incident with bullet holes in the ceiling, windows, the marble altar and the statue of Jesus Christ.
It is a very simple church, but so overwhelming to hear the stories of hardship and sacrifice that the people of Soweto have gone through in their struggle for equal rights.

Our tour of Soweto was amazing. It was a huge eyeopener to see how some people are still living.  It's a must visit to Johannesburg for anyone!!!

Following the tour, we asked to be dropped back at Sandton, at Nelson Mandela Square. This is a very upmarket suburb in Johannesburg, and the Square is a massive shopping mall. Standing in the square is an enormous bronze of Nelson Mandela.
Following a quick cafe lunch, we called Mary and arranged to meet her by the statue. In the mean time, Nicole booked in for an emergency manicure/pedicure (after smashing her toe against the end of the bed, she felt a bit frivilous after what she had seen during the day) whilst Phil and the boys ‘windowshopped’ in the bookstore and the Apple shop.
Mary was right on time and we had a nice cup of coffee before heading back to their lovely B&B, St Andrews Gardens. After a look at the great set-up they have established there, we sat outside and enjoyed the evening with a beer and a glass of wine. The boys met Kahiso, who was the son of the housekeeper. They all had a great time playing pool.

Peter and Mary’s daughter, Jenny, dropped in to say hi with her boyfriend Patrick. Phil had met them both about a year ago, when we all travelled up to Stellenbosch and Jenny and Pat were working at Ernie Els winery whilst they were studying. They had some business meetings that evening, and unfortunately couldn’t join us for dinner.

Nicholas, Peter and Mary’s son, also popped in to visit. He bought with him his pet bearded dragon, named Icarus.

 For Nicole, it was love at first sight!  Icarus was very cute, and the kids set off into the garden with Nicholas to find worms or moths for him to eat. He enjoyed his special treats, and the boys were fascinated watching him eat.

It was then time for us to eat, so we went to the Butcher Shop, a wonderful restaurant back at the Square. After we were seated, Peter arrived after a busy day at work. We had a lovely meal together, catching up and then Peter dropped us back at our hotel. It was a lovely, busy day, and the family had the opportunity to see the full spread of Johannesburg, from the top suburb of Sandton, to the shanties of Soweto. A fantastic day all round, and a huge eyeopener, one that we will never forget!

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