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Soweto is probably the ingloriously most famous township of South Africa and is also a synonym for black resistance during apartheid. In Soweto (South Western Township) about 4 million people live on approximately 120 km². The former township is located only 10 km southwest of the city centre of Johannesburg, was formerly a suburb and is today a separate district of Johannesburg. The area is – like the entire Witwatersrand – a dusty terrain.
Soweto can not generalise and has been for many years not as “dangerous”, as many older travel guides and above all the press as well as TV contributions still suggest. The district of Soweto is still predominantly the home of “poor black and coloured South Africans” and the crime rate is – as everywhere in the world in such suburbs – disproportionately high.
Organised tours (which you also pick up from the hotel in Johannesburg and the surrounding area) lead you relatively safely through the area.. Visitors and tourists can now explore Soweto much safer than just a few years ago, but should never underestimate the danger of a visit to such a poor neighbourhood.
In times of apartheid, many of the inhabitants who had no residence permit were, from time to time, expelled from Soweto and returned to their deserted townships in the provinces or homelands. Today, this is no longer the case, but new corrugated iron fields are emerging. The huts on the outskirts of Soweto 1951 were begun with the construction of a sewage system, a water pipe and small stone houses, but because of the continuous influx, even during apartheid, these achievements could never cover the residential needs.
Since 1994, the infrastructure and new public and private houses have finally been invested. New massive stone houses are being erected, the roads tarred, there is a garbage disposal, water, sewage as well as power lines laid and there are many new – usually privately operated – bus connections. to the city center.
As Soweto and most of the other townships in South Africa are still growing, however, it is likely that the state’s high investment never really meets the needs! The biggest problem Soweto is actually still much bigger than the lack of infrastructure, garbage disposal and the housing shortage!
Today, Soweto is no longer just a wretched area filled with corrugated iron huts. The district was largely renovated after the turn-around in South Africa, and Soweto is today a lively, flourishing city district. There are modern schools, hospitals and shopping centers. Even “villa district” is found in Soweto, so the well-known “Beverley Hills”, where many wealthy blacks live. Here you will also find the former house of Nelson Mandela, now a much-visited museum.
Despite all the improvements, however, Soweto still reflects the great poverty in South Africa, as well as the gigantic lack of human dignity. Many of the small house owners rent their tiny gardens for a few bridges to the homeless, who then live there in primitive cardboard houses. The dwellers are from other African countries, especially from Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
A visit to Soweto is by no means as dangerous as is often assumed. Nevertheless, you should not visit the township on your own, but join a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide.