Soweto is the largest township in South Africa, located approximateley 20km south west of Johannesburg. Its name is a contraction for South West Township. I've seen about 4 different sources for its population count and they ranged from 1.5 million to 5 million (post 1985).

Soweto exists for one reason: cheap labor for the gold mines of Joburg. Cecil Rhodes (for whom Rhodesia is named) and many, many other whites got extremely rich off of the inhabitants of Soweto. They imported men from the country side and forced them to live in hostels which were essentially huge dorms of miners.

Western press led me to expect acres and acres of shanties, as far as the eye can see. We went on a tour of Soweto (I'm told that is the only safe way to see it) and our host was born and raised there. There are nice areas and very poor areas. The measurement stick seems to have been lowered for Soweto, for the nice areas aren't as nice as the nicest areas of other cities and the poor areas are horrible. We went to a shabeen and tried some tripe (as near as I can tell part of the digestive tract of a cow). Didn't care for it.

The largest hospital in the southern hemisphere is located in Soweto. Nelson and Winnie Mandela's home is also here.

We spent a few minutes talking with one of the poorer residents. Her and her 4 children live in a two room shanty. They share a port-a-potty and a water tap (government supplied). They have been promised a house for four years but are still waiting.

A memorial to the children who died during the Soweto riots of 1976. The apartheid government tried to enforce a law which dictated that Afrikaans be the language of instruction in schools. The blacks have always regarded Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor and protested against this action vehemently. There is a famous photograph which depicts a black youth carrying a bloody Hector Peterson out of a crowd. Hector later died.

Some artwork representing the dead from the 1976 riots.

Typical Soweto view.

The freedom charter was a group of ideas solicited from anyone who cared to submit an idea on the role of government. In 1955 the ANC asked everyone in the country to submit their ideas. They compiled these into the Freedom Charter. Evidence of it apparently still exists in Soweto.

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