African shoestrings – South Africa Day Twenty-six
The main reason that we had elected to stay in J’burg the extra night was to see Soweto.
Soweto you say! Why would anyone want to see such a notoriously dangerous place?
Well, most tourists visiting South Africa regardless of budget have minimal contact with black South Africans. Very few get to visit black townships or satellite towns because of their reputation or lack of opportunity.
Hotels and all levels of accommodation, tour companies and other tourist facilities are still in the main, owned and run by white South Africans and generally black South Africans tend to keep their distance particularly from white tourists.
Not surprisingly Soweto has had the biggest media coverage and for most represents South Africa at its worse. It has in reality, been a war zone ever since that fateful day in June 1976 when many black students were killed by police in a march against the use of the Afrikaans language in black schools.
So to see such an infamous place is to observe black South Africa.
Of course we were not stupid enough to go in on our own. Soweto is now a tourist attraction, so there are a number of tours that are run chiefly by black South Africans.
Like most people I expected to see squalor and poverty on a large scale and it stopped me in my tracks to see that parts of Soweto were just like any other middle class suburb in the world. Nic Mbewe, our guide and Padwana his driver lived all their lives in Soweto and as he explained “There are basically three types of housing in Soweto, upper for the educated with good jobs who are moving out because they can, middle for those with jobs and the poor end of town for those who have nothing”.
To be contuined………