Competing with the likes of Robben Island etc.
As a guide working in the tourism industry I have witnessed how visitors are curious about Soweto. Most of them want to experience Soweto because they have read a lot about it and even seen disturbing pictures of it in the 70’s. Some want to see Soweto because they have a very vague idea what it is and yet the name Soweto features in a lot of media when it comes to news about South Africa.
Soweto means: South Western Townships and it was developed as a result of a system called Apartheid introduced in 1948. This was a system of government whereby races were separated. There were four races created, Europeans, Indians, Coloureds and Africans. Under the Apartheid system Europeans enjoyed all the benefits, best jobs, better housing etc. Everything that was not European had no right to reside in cities. All non Europeans were moved out of the cities, this
happened in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and that was the birth of Townships and Soweto is one of them. In South African context a Township is a living area for Africans and a Suburb is a living area for Europeans.
In the 70’s Soweto put itself on the world map, on the 16th of June 1976 school children organized a peaceful march to stand against a law that was introduced by the Apartheid government saying that every school had to teach in Afrikaans which is a dialect only spoken in South Africa. The main argument against this law was that Afrikaans was going to limit them. It meant that they could only study and work in South Africa. Soldiers were ordered to go and disperse the school children, however they shot at a 13 year old boy by the name of Hector Pietersen. This was the beginning of all the boycotts and killing of young and innocent children, up to this present day no one knows how many died.
So the 70’s up till the 90’s Soweto has been a focal point for many media houses and hence people are very keen to visit it. Many people that I have had an opportunity to show and explain Soweto, have told me how they are positively surprised at what Soweto really is.
Soweto is a trendsetter, politically, fashion, a kaleidoscope of cultures the list is long. It has and still is a home of most of our powerful politicians. As a visitor of South Africa leaving Soweto out of your itinerary is short changing your experience of the most important part of our country.