Soweto Part 1

Soweto is arguably the most well known part of Johannesburg.        It is the largest township in South Africa with over 1.2 million people.  Townships like Soweto are where the black people would go at night when they left Joburg after work in aprtheid era S。A。       Most of the city was then left for white people.

I had last been in Soweto in 2001 and was amazed at the differences today.  The improvements were very clear and it was more like a city than a shanty town like I saw in 2001.  Many houses were of reasonable quality and some were really quite nice.  There were upscale restaurant /bar areas rather than run down shabeens.  Our guide Bongani was great and engaged well with the kids.  He was with MoAfrika tours He was knowledgable and really entertaining.  He himself lived in Soweto.  He explained that a lot of money and effort has gone into improvements in all townships. As he said we got to visit the good, the bad and the ugly of Soweto.

One of the good parts is Soccer City which was used for the World Cup. Known as the ‘Calabash’ it seats nearly 100k and is the largest stadium in Africa. Home of the Kaiser Chiefs ( football not music)


Heading in. 17 years earlier i spent a few mights in a corrugated metal house with a mother and 11 kids…now i was going to Soweto with my own.


Entering Soweto we see the newer ‘matchbox’ house of Soweto. More brick than discarded wood or metal that I remember from 2001


Way nicer than my memories
Some nice houses now


Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the third largest hospital in the world (after two in China)Chris Hani was murdered in Soweto and was an influential political leasder (communist actually)


The famous Orlando cooling towers now decomissioned and painted up There is a bungee jump between the towers – you can just see the bridge。


Bungee bridge clearly seen


The Soweto I remeber

We then went into an area our guide said was for the poor of Soweto.  It was exactly like I remembered.  Our guide Bongani talked well and made it sound like all was well with tourism but these kind of things make me feel like we are in a human zoo and i am always uneasy.  What could one guide do if the local folks chose to run us out forcibly?  A guide gives such a false sense of security.  I clowned around with the kids and that always seems to go over well.  Many adults had that tired and somewhat desperate look….we saw a little school/kids centre and could donate – the kids area always keen to help other kids….This made me realise that South Africa still has a long way to go for millions of poor.  Before the poor were marginalised by a corrupt white government, now they are screwed by a corrupt black government – which is better?

Our guide Bongani before going into the area


Guide explaining how these were often new people coming to the big city for a better life….hhmmmm


It was all alleyways


This is new – clean water. And more regular taps. Not the one pump for thousands that I remembered



A real shanty town


Pretty deserted – always or just when tourists come by?  Yeah – a satellite dish….


Wandering the old Soweto of my memory


I wish I could be in their heads to know what they were thinking. My kids have seen so much at so young an age. Outside the indigenous people of northern Quebec when I was 4-5, I knew little of this kind of poverty until well into my late teens or 20s

The green space in the back is a swamp so no one can live or cross that area

The kids were checking us out and no doubt interested in our girls


I got these three to goof around with me


I loved her hair


No matter what kids still have fun
Soweto is a very young place with lots of unemployment and so lots of kids
This one mimics my muscleman pose!
The kids are always so curious
My girls love babies
The kids centre/school – you can donate if you like
Not so big but lovely and a chance for many kids to do something
The side of the kids centre
Inside the kids centre
Some kids get their only meal here


  1. Robin Kealey says:

    What an experience for you kids to see this other side of life. Like you I didn’t see this until I was an adult. The children’s centre reminds me of the ones I worked with outside of Buenos Aires. The houses of metal and wood looked familiar too. It really broadens perspectives. I was intrigued by your description of the tour in the poorer spots as I wasn’t sure how this type of thing. I get your mixed feelings regarding the tour. The experience for your girls outweighs the negatives I think. I hope to show Ewan more of the world before he gets much older. Such an amazing gift to learn in the moment in the location.

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