Scenes of Soweto township, southwest of Johannesburg
Gumboot dancing, and children of Soweto
Soweto is the famous township near the city of Johannesburg, established in 1905, when black people were relocated here from 'Coolietown' Johannesburg city, after the bubonic plague broke out there in May, 1903. This part of South Africa, previously known as the Transvaal Republic, was at the time a new conquered British colony, after the Anglo Boer War of 1899 to 1902. The system of separate development, later to be known as Apartheid, was in its beginning years. Houses were built by the government of the day, as well as by mining companies on the Witwatersrand (Ridge of White Waters) on the gold fields on the southern side of the main city of Johannesburg. The first black families were settled in Klipspruit, later renamed Pimville, in rental housing.
The establishment of Soweto is directly linked to the discovery of Gold in 1886 in the area west of Johannesburg central city. Gold changed the history of this once far-off land forever. Thousands of people from around the world and South Africa flocked to the new town of Johannesburg, seeking their fortunes or offering their labour. By 1890, Johannesburg was the second largest city in what is today the Republic of South Africa. It was then in the Republic of the Transvaal, an independant republic, which was established after 1852, away from British domination, but which was later taken over as yet another British colony after the 3-year Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902), with its British concentration camps, where thousands of black and white women, children and men died.
By 1902, at the end of the war, it left the area in devastation, nonetheless brought on by the Scorched Earth Policy of the Brit, Lord Milner. Thousands of white and black people were forcibly removed, after their homes, animals, crops and all property were burned down, to concentration camps, where they were neglected and starved by the British forces. Tens of thousands died in these concentration camps. This left many people destitute, and black people in particular suffered.
By 1905, the majority of the inhabitants of Johannesburg were black, living mostly in multi racial shanty towns, near the gold mines, in the centre of the town. As the gold mining industry developed, so the need for labour increased. Migrant labour developed, and most of these workers lived in Mine compounds. Other workers had to find their own accommodation, often in appalling conditions.
Life in Kliptown, the oldest part of Soweto.
The farms of Doornkop, Klipriviersoog, Diepkloof, Klipspruit and Vogelstruisfontein were used to establish the township of Soweto. In the 1930's, large areas of Soweto was a shanty town, and the demand for housing for the large numbers of black people who had moved into the Johannesburg area, grew to such an extent that new housing was built in Orlando, so named after the first administrator, Edwin Orlando Leaky.
During the 1940's, James Mpanza, with his Sofasonke movement, led the first illegal land invasion, when about 20000 squatters occupied land near Orlando. James Mpanza is known today as the "Father of Soweto".
In 1959, residents of Sophiatown were forcibly removed to a new settlement, Meadowlands, Soweto. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, first chairman of the Anglo American Corporation, was appalled by the housing shortage, and was instrumental in arranging a loan for the construction of additional housing. This is commemorated by the Oppenheimer Tower in Jabulani.
The Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, at Freedom Square in Soweto
Freedom Square Open air market, and the 10 points of the Freedom Charter of 1955.
Until 1976, residents were considered temporary, as a migrant workforce for Johannesburg. In 1955, people of many races gathered together and accepted the 10 points of the Freedom Charter at Freedom Square, today known as Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, where modern business buildings, together with an open market and monuments, adorn the previously open area.
Many more political campaigns developed in Soweto, and in 1976 the students of Phefeni Senior Secondary school initiated a protest march for the removal of Afrikaans language teaching in schools of Soweto, marching from Naledi High towards the Orlando Police Station, when on the way they clashed with the Police, and eventually hundreds of youths let their lives in the ensuing years in the subsequent rows with Police. 16 June is today our Youth Day, commemorating that turning point in the struggle against the Apartheid system. Hector Pieterson was one of the first students to die on that day, and the Memorial was named after him.
Soweto is a vibrant city. Here is where politics, sport, language, fasion, music, dance, and the performing arts set new trends. Several professional soccer teams, like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, and Moroka Swallows, call Soweto their home, and are amongst the most successful soccer teams of the Premier Soccer League.
So-we-to is the acronym for South Western Township, a name that was accepted for the area in 1963, and is the epitome of a black South African township. It is the largest, most populous, and most famous of these townships, which were all formed around most towns and cities in South Africa during the previous century. They formed a part of the segregationist development strategy of the Apartheid era in South Africa. The different races of Black, White, Coloured, and Indian, were divided into separate residential areas within each town and city.
The 1957 Natives Consolidation (Urban Areas) Act and the predecessory acts, restricted residents between 1923 and 1976 to seven self-employment categories in Soweto. Residents could operate general dealerships, restaurants, butcheries, sell milk or vegetables, or hawk goods. The number of enterprises like these were strictly controlled, resulting in informal trading which developed outside the legally-recognized activities. By 1976 Soweto had two cinemas and two hotels, and 20% of houses had electricity supply. Many residents had to use fire for cooking and heating, which contributed to respiratory problems, which gave rise to high infant mortality rates (54 per 1000, compared to 18 for whites)
Soweto was the birthplace of many famous South Africans:
Cyril Ramaphosa (born 1952): lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and business tycoon.
Tokyo Sexwale (born 1953): businessman and politician, anti-apartheid activist, and political prisoner
Jomo Sono (born 1955): soccer club owner (Jomo Cosmos) and coach, former star soccer player
Doctor Khumalo (born 1967): soccer player
Lucas Radebe (born 1969): soccer player and national team captain
Mandoza (born 1978): kwaito musician
Bonginkosi Dlamini, (Zola): poet, actor, and musician
Frank Chikane (born 1951): anti-apartheid activist and life-long resident.
Other famous people from Soweto include:
Dingaan Thobela: the Rose of Soweto, described as 'the most naturally talented boxer ever to come out of South Africa'
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-): first black President of South Africa (1994), Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1993), together with FW de Klerk
Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1931-): Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-1998), Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1984) (Bishop of Johannesburg; former Secretary General, South African Council of Churches)
Winnie Mandela: second wife of Nelson Mandela, still a resident of 'Beverly Hills', Soweto
Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-1993): conceived the idea of the ANC Youth League (1943), Secretary of the ANCYL (1944), Teacher, lawyer, President and National Chairperson of the ANC
Lilian Ngoyi (1911-1980): anti-apartheid activist, who spent 18 years under house arrest in Mzimhlope
Irvin Khoza (27 January 1948-): South African football administrator, Chairman of Orlando Pirates.
and then of course, think about:
Soweto String Quartet
Soweto Gospel Choir
and many others..
Today, many of the people of Soweto still prefer to live in Soweto, although many have also moved to other suburbs of Johannesburg and other cities in the vacinity. The vibe in Soweto is just so much different from the previous white townships in the surrounding cities! There's a community feel and the system of ubuntu is widely visible.
On our tour of Soweto, we show you the different areas of interest, the famous landmarks, the historic places, with visits to the most famous of these. Touring South Africa has years of experience in touring through the township of Soweto, with a vast knowledge gained through thorough inputs by different knowledgable inhabitants of Soweto.
Over the many years, we have seen the development and beautification of the houses, facilities, and streets, of Soweto. Many of the Old have been developed into New, and the New stand as proud examples of what can be done in an area that once were just rows and rows of houses next to dusty roads.
Come learn more about Soweto with Touring South Africa -- You will enjoy the people and the spirit of Soweto.
Let us take you there!
More scenes of Soweto township, southwest of Johannesburg
Inside the Regina Mundi Church / A Mandela mural in Soweto
(c)Copyright Peter Maas, Touring South Africa
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