Home Guide To Visiting Soweto

Tuesday30 November 2021

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's 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 inhabitants from the main city areas. It is among 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 utterly changed. I, like any foreigner, had perceptions of what this "township" could be like; soiled, old, poor, dangerous etc. Oh how I was wrong. Yes there are still many parts of Soweto that resemble the national geographic images of poverty in Africa. Nonetheless, with the post Apartheid surge within the South African financial system, there's a large and fast rising Black center class. Soweto has come a protracted ways since its preventing days.

Driving round, I noticed good vehicles in all places, new buildings, folks dressed in nice clothing. I didn’t really feel threatened at all. Also, throw within the Maponya Mall which rivals that of the nicest malls I’ve seen, and I begin to wonder to myself what’s all the fuss about when it involves Soweto? This place is not all bad! While culturally, it’s seen as desirable to "make it" and depart the township, folks will still come back here to show off their possessions and the way they’ve made it in life, also a sign of how far the country has come economically within the final 20 years.

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

To additional showcase that Soweto is not the dangerous, poor, soiled stereotype that its given, it is definitely one of the top tourist attractions in Johannesburg. There are plenty of firms that do day tours to Soweto and loads of tourists 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 tours available now.

I’ve by no means achieved one among these tours because why go on a tour with tourists when I can have my own private tour with some locals who happen to be friends? The primary tourist attractions listed here are Mandela’s old house (not a historical site), Vilakazi road, the Apartheid Museum (not in Soweto but shut by), and a few monuments dedicated to the those who misplaced their lives during the uprising in the Apartheid era. For something not culture related, there are the Orlando cooling towers which is house to the Soweto bungy jump! 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 into a locals hangout and never feel fully out of place. While Vilakazi street has plenty of bars, this is nowadays, a very touristy part of town and is a spot that foreigners flock to and locals return to Soweto to show off how far they’ve are available in life (check out the nice vehicles here). For a more native expertise, the place 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 affordable, and there is always a braai taking place where you can purchase your meat on the spot.

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