Located some 16 kms from Johannesburg, Soweto is the name for a collective of townships that grew into a city. Originally intended for the temporary housing of mine workers, it became a ghetto for the black population of Joburg in 1923.
The Urban Areas Act promised (besides the stigma) new houses and better facilities. However, the poor circumstances and the discriminatory laws by the government, resulted in a stream of people, accumulating in illegal squatter camps. It has always been the scene of South Africas turbulent history.
Soweto is famous for its severe violent riots that took place in 1976 when the government wanted to introduce Afrikaans as the official language at schools. The intended peaceful demonstrations were put down violently and over 600 people were killed.
Nowadays, history still shows its face. Most sights in this thriving township are dedicated to the commemoration of either peaceful or violent political struggles. In the western part of Soweto, Orlando, youll find the former houses of two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who staked their lives, together with many others, for human rights.
Infused with the history of the struggle against apartheid and abuzz with the energy of the city of gold, Soweto is a must-see for tourists who are looking for more than sun, sea and the big five.
With heritage sites, restaurants, shebeens and budget accommodation options aplenty, Soweto is well worth visiting, whether on a day tour or for a longer period to experience the real Soweto a place of friendship, vibrancy and contrasts.
Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in the country, with Census 2001 putting its population at close to a million. Thanks to its proximity to Johannesburg, the economic hub of the country, it is also the most metropolitan township in the country - setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language.