Soweto-  (SOuth WEstern TOwnships)

The site was the theatre for deadly clashes that started the dominos falling to the end of Apartheid.   Candidly, on the visible surface, not much has changed in the 2010 version of the Soweto.  Poverty still rules the day.  Opportunity is no longer limited but an oppressive government, but it is a difficult road to travel.  Access to healthcare, education and clean water is not as plentiful as your would expect.

Main streets are lined with open air butchers, abandoned cars, and pick up soccer games.   Our guide took us to see an African “natural medicine market” located just outside of the Soweto.

The now abandoned twin nuclear cooling towers have been converted into a tourist attraction.  I understand that they filmed a location of “The Amazing Race” here.  Stretched between the two concrete towers is a bungee jumping facility.  We were on a tight schedule and were unable to check it out.

We spent nearly a full day in the Soweto area, and came away with more questions than answers.  We counted a significant number of Mercedes and BMWs coming and going in the neighborhoods.  We saw well dressed folks coming and going.  We saw clearly malnourished kids wandering among cardboard and tin shantys.  There was a government employee strike during our visit and the large hospital at the hear of the area was completely empty.  It was heavily fortified by the military.  Where did the patients go?  We understood that locals that attempt to volunteer during the strike are attacked.

So many difficult questions.  No easy answers.

Our impression of the Soweto was dramatically different than our visit to Swaziland.  The Swazi situation felt hopeless.  The Soweto again presented a constant dichotomy.  It appeared like some had found the escape hatch from desperation.

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One Response to Soweto

  1. Amy October 16, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    We really wanted to learn more about Soweto (or any of the townships), and see one firsthand, but the timing didn’t work out. I’m glad I got to learn more about it through your post. Did you feel awkward at all, like the people were on display like in a zoo? This was a concern of mine about going on a township tour (although we were planning to go anyway, and already had gone on a something similar – a village tour on the Wild Coast) but I suppose all travel has some element of this. After all, people watching is one of my favorite travel activities.