Soweto is the home of a lot of history and significance in part due to a student uprising there in 1976. Students marched in the streets to oppose a new law stating that at least half of their school instruction was to be taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling party. During the protest a young student named Hector Pieterson was shot and killed by police. It is estimated that as many as 700 protesters were killed although the official reported number is much lower. The violence created a lot of attention, distress and shock over apartheid both in South Africa and internationally.
In addition to the Soweto uprising, Soweto was home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In fact, they both lived on the same street. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners.
A few weeks ago when my parents were here, the four of us visited Soweto. We took a bus tour which included the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. We also saw a home that Nelson Mandela lived in for a time, the home where Winnie Mandela still lives, and other sights.
|Winnie Mandela's house|
We got out of the bus to take a walking tour the informal settlement area. You may be thinking that it's strange to take a tour and walk around and look at poor people. I don't disagree. We all felt a little weird about it. The people in the informal settlement did not seem to mind though. They were very polite, saying hello to us and thanking us for coming. I guess they think the more people who see the area, the more it might help to bring about changes. Or maybe they are just used to having visitors.
A young man named Vusi, who lives in the informal settlement, showed us around and brought us into the shack where he lives with his brother. The one room shacks are made mostly of corrugated metal.
Like Diepsloot there are people everywhere and tons of little kids running around. There are stores and restaurants and all kinds of services in structures created out of various scavenged materials.
When the tour ended, I think we all felt pretty horrible. The lack of employment is an overwhelming problem. I especially fely badly for the little kids who did not ask to be born into such difficult circumstances. The kids all seemed fine though, running around and playing in the dirt. The little ones are too young to know what they don't know.
|Chicken for sale. Not sure where the seller went off to.|
|A port a potty used by hundreds of people who don't have indoor plumbing|
|This is what the houses look like|
|Vusi (right) and his brother inside their home.|
|Inside their shack|
|Someone planted a pretty garden in the middle of it all|
|Between the shacks|
|Take out restaurant and store. Notice how the roof is being held on.|
|The menu. I believe Russians and Viennas are types of sausages and I think maybe French refers to the bread type? These days the rand is trading at about 12:1 USD. So the chips cost about $1.00|