What a Trip We Had – Touring in Johannesburg, Part 3
As I mentioned in this post, our guest home owner Karen, made arrangements for me to do a Soweto Township Tour and to go to the Apartheid Museum. After I was picked up, we also picked up a mom and her two children from the Netherlands and off we went to Soweto. It was explained to me by the tour guide that the name Soweto stands for South West Township.
Around the turn of the century the area was originally developed to house black workers who labored in the gold mines that this area was known for. The white population, at this time, lived in the center of Johannesburg. About this time the roots of apartheid began to take root. Later on in the 1950’s more blacks were relocated to the township from black area of Johannesburg. The problems of Soweto have included poor housing, overcrowding, high unemployment and poor infrastructure. This has seen settlements of shacks made of corrugated iron sheets becoming part of the Soweto landscape. The homes that we saw were, for the most part, concrete or brick homes sharing electricity from power lines. I couldn’t believe how many extension cords there appeared to be and all I could think is how dangerous it was. Within these communities people find creative ways to earn a little bit of money. One man had a ripped and torn tarp wrapped around three poles and within this area he set up a barber shop. I didn’t enjoy this tour as I felt like I was gawking at the residents – i know I wouldn’t want anyone coming into my neighborhood staring and seeing how we live.
Leaving this area we went to where Nelson Mandela lived as well as Desmond Tutu. This seemed to be more commercial with restaurants, entertainment and ATM machines abound. Of course, you had the souvenir hawkers with tables of wares they were selling.
We also had 30 minutes in the Hector Pieterson Museum. Hector was a young 13 year old boy who was killed when police opened fire upon protesting students. One of the main objections that the students were protesting against was that they were to be taught in Afrikaans, regarded as the language of the oppressor. Hector was shot and killed and although he was not the first student to be killed, he is immotalized because of a famous photograph of another student carrying Hector with Hector’s sister at his side. While we were at the museum, his sister was working there and we got to meet her. I didn’t think 30 minutes was enough time and if you go there on a tour, try to get a little more time at the museum. While we were there a school group came so they too could learn about their past. The day of the killing, June 16th, has become a holiday known as Youth Day in South Africa.
I also visited the Apartheid Museum which is on the grounds of an amusement park and casino – seems like a strange choice but nevertheless, that is where it was located. Half of the museum was dedicated to Nelson Mandela and his contemporaries and their struggle and story. The other half was about apartheid through the years. Entering the museum, you are given a ticket that indicates which door you are to enter through – it would be either white or non-white. Mine was non-white. As I entered I saw the identification papers that non-whites needed to carry with them. I kept thinking back that perhaps our country wasn’t that different decades/century ago from where South Africa was a few decades ago. Like our country, there were whites/Europeans who were against apartheid. It made me feel uncomfortable but I felt like it was something that I needed to experience. Photography wasn’t allowed in the museum otherwise I would show you some pictures I took. You need to take my words that this was a powerful museum.
Blogger Hubby did the HoHo bus (Hop on, Hop off) and after we compared notes I think he saw more than I did except for Soweto but he could have included it on his tour. If I were to do it again, I would follow my husband’s plan.