Guide To Visiting Soweto

Soweto is largely known to the outside world for being a poor South African slum that the late Nelson Mandela lived. It is true, but there is far more history than that. Soweto’s name was derived from South West Township and was created by the government a century ago as an space to displace the Black population from the main urban areas. It is likely one of the largest townships within the country (townships are essentially slums) and for many of its history, it has served as an area of segregation, extreme poverty, and most importantly, as a center for apartheid resistance documented by the Soweto Uprisings.

Nowadays, this place has completely changed. I, like any foreigner, had perceptions of what this “township” would be like; dirty, old, poor, dangerous etc. Oh how I used to be wrong. Yes there are still many parts of Soweto that resemble the national geographic images of poverty in Africa. However, with the put up Apartheid surge in the South African economic system, there’s a large and fast rising Black middle class. Soweto has come a protracted ways since its combating days.

Driving round, I saw good automobiles all over the place, new buildings, people dressed in good clothing. I didn’t really feel threatened at all. Additionally, throw in the Maponya Mall which rivals that of the nicest malls I’ve seen, and I start to wonder to myself what’s all the fuss about when it comes to Soweto? This place is just not all bad! While culturally, it’s seen as desirable to “make it” and leave the township, people will still come back right here to show off their possessions and how they’ve made it in life, also a sign of how far the country has come economically within the last 20 years.

Nevertheless, compared to Sandton with its immense wealth, Soweto is still incredibly poor and you’ll clearly see it. There are still shanty towns all over the place like the image here. I’m undecided if these areas even have electricity. To show how much Soweto has come up in recent times, a number of blocks down the road from these shanty towns will be proper houses in proper neighborhoods. Nonetheless, Soweto is far closer to foreigner’s perceptions of Africa than a city like Sandton.

To further showcase that Soweto just isn’t the damaging, poor, dirty stereotype that its given, it is definitely one of the top vacationer attractions in Johannesburg. There are many firms that do day excursions to Soweto and loads of vacationers sign up. For about 600R, an organization will pick you up and go for a half day touring Soweto, visiting all of the sites, and even visiting one of many poorer areas. There are even bike excursions available now.

I’ve never finished certainly one of these excursions because why go on a tour with tourists once I can have my own private tour with some locals who happen to be friends? The principle vacationer sights listed here are Mandela’s old house (not a historical site), Vilakazi road, the Apartheid Museum (not in Soweto but close by), and some monuments dedicated to the those that lost their lives in the course of the rebellion within the Apartheid era. For something not tradition related, there are the Orlando cooling towers which is dwelling to the Soweto bungy soar! At 100m, it’s less than half the height of the bungy at Bloukrans so I never bothered.

The one good thing about having South Africa friends is I can roll up right into a locals hangout and never really feel fully out of place. While Vilakazi road has loads of bars, this is nowadays, a very touristy part of town and is a place that foreigners flock to and locals return to Soweto to show off how far they’ve come in life (check out the nice vehicles right here). For a more native expertise, where you’ll likely stand out and garnish looks from the locals (not bad looks, just curious looks), head to Panyaza or Chaf-Pozi by the Orlando Towers. The booze is cheap, and there is always a braai happening the place you should buy your meat on the spot.

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