Soweto Tourist Attractions
Soweto (an abbreviation for Southwestern Townships) lies 20km/12.5mi southwest of Johannesburg. Here, within an area of around 100sq km/40sq mi, live between 2 and 3 million people, making Soweto by far the largest of the towns round Johannesburg designed to house the black population. Soweto now consists of more than 20 townships. One of the first of these was Orlando East, established in 1934; others are only a few years old.The inhabitants of Soweto are by no means a homogeneous group: ethnically the town is very mixed. Here, within a narrow space, are members of all the different black peoples of South Africa, the largest group by far being the Zulus, with around 33% of the total population. There are few wealthy people in Soweto, and only small numbers in the middle income bracket; and the great majority of the population live in slum conditions. Only a few of the inhabitants have a regular income, and estimates of the number of unemployed range between 50% and 80% of the population of working age.At one end of the social scale in Soweto there are districts with villas which may have cost the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars. Below this level there is an apparently endless sea of little box houses consisting of two or three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, with a trim and well-kept yard (though refuse piles up on some streets and squares, since it is collected only once a week). Less privileged members of the community live in makeshift shacks of corrugated iron. At the lowest level of the social hierarchy are the inhabitants of the men's hostels, enclosed by barbed wire, who live a bachelor life far from their families. Most of them have not even 2sq m/22sq ft of living space, and a single chair and table must sometimes be shared between four men. Given these conditions, it is hardly surprising that unrest and violence are the order of the day in Soweto. The wave of violence began in 1976, when there was an uprising by black schoolchildren against the introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction. The unrest, which also spread to other townships, was bloodily repressed by the police. Since then many thousand people have died. More recently the violence was less directed against whites but took the form of attacks by blacks on blacks, leading to bloody massacres. Before the 1994 election there was bitter fighting between ANC supporters and Zulus. There have also been numbers of murders which represented the settlement of private accounts, where the police could do little or nothing.Soweto has the status of an independent town, though with only limited powers of self-government. Much of it now has electricity, and some streets are asphalted. There are kindergartens, schools and hospitals (the largest of which is the well-equipped Baragwanath Hospital, with 5,000 beds); and the Vista University provides higher education for blacks. It is a striking fact that this city of 2 or 3 million inhabitants has no real center. It has little in the way of facilities for leisure and recreation - a few sports grounds, two parks littered with rubbish and two cinemas. For such a large population there are very few shops. There are practically no jobs to be had in Soweto itself: some of the population make a living by trade, but the overwhelming majority have to commute by train or minibus to jobs in Johannesburg.Visitors who want to see Soweto can do so safely only by taking a guided tour. Some may not like the idea of a sightseeing trip of this kind, but they should consider whether they ought not to overcome their reluctance: Soweto is, after all, a part of South Africa, and without seeing it they will not fully realize the scale of the social problems with which the country has to contend. There have so far been no serious incidents on conducted tours of Soweto, and most of the inhabitants show a friendly attitude to white visitors. On these tours, usually in minibuses, visitors are taken round the different parts of Soweto, are shown Winnie Mandela's house and also see the slum quarters. Sometimes the bus stops at some point to give visitors a chance to meet some of the inhabitants.