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  SOWETO IN A NUTSHELL  

SOWETO is the most populous black urban residential area in the country, with a population of around a million. Thanks to its proximity to Johannesburg, the economic hub of the country, it is also the most metropolitan township in the country - setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language.

soweto

But the township was, from its genesis, a product of segregationist planning. It was back in 1903 that Kliptown, the oldest of a cluster of townships that constitute present day Soweto, was established. The township was created to house black labourers, who worked in mines and other industries in the city, away from the city centre. The inner city was later to be reserved for white occupation as the policy of segregation took root.

But it was not until 1963 that the acronym, Soweto, was adopted as the official name for South Western Townships, following a four-year public competition on an appropriate name for the sprawling township.

The perennial problems of Soweto have, since its inception, 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. Apartheid planning did not provide much in terms of infrastructure, and it is only in recent years that the democratic government has spearheaded moves to plant trees, tar roads, develop parks, and install electricity and running water to some parts of the township.

Soweto has been a hotbed of many political campaigns that took place in the country, the most memorable of which was the 1976 student uprising. Other politically charged campaigns to have germinated in Soweto include the squatter movement of the 1940s and the defiance campaigns of the mid to late 1980s.

The area has also spawned many political, sporting and social luminaries, including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu - two Nobel peace prize laureates, who once lived in the now famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.

Other prominent figures to have come from Soweto include boxing legend Baby Jake Matlala, diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka and soccer maestro, Jomo Sono. Others include mathematics professor Thamsanqa Kambule, the late medical doctor Nthato Motlana and the late journalist Aggrey Klaaste.

The township has also produced the highest number of professional soccer teams in the country. Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows all emerged from the township, and remain among the biggest soccer teams in the Premier Soccer League.

With its high unemployment rate, the area has also spawned many gangsters. Since the 1930s, various gangsters, mostly territorial formations of young, barely literate males, out of school and out of work, have come and gone.

The extensions built in the 1980s to house the emerging middle class, mostly civil servants, have added colour to the township.

Recent years have seen Soweto become a site of massive development projects, including tarring the roads and greening the township, making Soweto a major tourist attraction in the country.

The gangs come and go, fashions come and go, but the ubiquitous township continues to grow.

Soweto obtained its name from the first two letters of South Western Township which was the original description of the area, but some feel it came from the relocating residents asking "SoWhere To?"

The township was created to house mainly black labourers, who worked in mines and other industries in the city, away from the city centre. The first residents of what is now known as Soweto were located into the area called Klipspriut in 1905 following their relocation from the centre of Johannesburg as a result of an outbreak of bubonic plague. The Johannesburg City Council took the opportunity to establish racially segregated residential areas. Only black families were located into Klipspruit and the housing was on a rental basis. Klipspruit was subsequently renamed Pimville.

Soweto began as a shanty town in the 1930s and became the largest black city in South Africa, but until 1976 its population could have status only as temporary residents, serving as a workforce for Johannesburg.

Soweto has also been a hotbed of many political campaigns that took place in the country, the most memorable of which was the 1976 student uprising in which several students were shot at, and others killed.

The first student to fall –Hector Peterson can be remembered as a symbol of that struggle at the Hector Peterson Memorial which was set up not too far from where he was shot.

Following the end of apartheid in 1994, the municipal services of Soweto were administered by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Board, on which the people of Soweto have elected representatives.

The township has also produced the highest number of professional soccer teams in the country. Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows all emerged from the township, and remain among the biggest soccer teams in the Premier Soccer League.

Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in the country. Some call it a city within a city due to its proximity to Johannesburg. It is also the most metropolitan township in the country - setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language.

SOWETO is getting a facelift, which will not only make it a greater tourist attraction, but will also make the city self-sustaining. With the recent opening of Maponya Mall, residents of the famous township will no longer have to spend money on transport to go to far away malls for their shopping.
Soweto will also become a tourist destination, with several B&B’s and restaurants already up and running, the residents of Soweto have found a way to turn a tumultuous history into an income generating tourist attraction.

In 1963, the name Soweto (SOuth WEstern TOwnship) was officially adopted for the sprawling township that now occupied what had been the farms of Doornkop, Klipriviersoog, Diepkloof, Klipspruit and Vogelstruisfontein.

Soweto came to the world's attention on June 16, 1976 with the Soweto Riots, when mass protests erupted over the government's policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than English. Police opened fire in Orlando West on 10,000 students marching from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium, and in the events that unfolded, 566 people died .

The impact of the Soweto protests reverberated through the country and across the world. In their aftermath, economic and cultural sanctions were introduced from abroad. Political activists left the country to train for guerilla resistance. Soweto and other townships became the stage for violent state repression. In response, the apartheid state starting providing electricity to more Soweto homes, yet phased out financial support for building additional housing

Many parts of Soweto rank among the poorest in Johannesburg, although individual townships tend to have a mix of wealthier and poorer residents. In general, households in the outlying areas to the northwest and southeast have lower incomes, while those in southwestern areas tend to have higher incomes.

Economy The economic development of Soweto was severely curtailed by the apartheid state, which provided very limited infrastructure and prevented residents from creating their own businesses. Roads remained unpaved, and many residents had to share one tap between four houses, for example. Soweto was meant to exist only as a dormitory town for black Africans who worked in white houses, factories, and industries. The 1957 Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act and its predecessors restricted residents between 1923 to 1976 to seven self-employment categories in Soweto itself. Sowetans could operate general shops, butcheries, eating houses, sell milk or vegetables, or hawk goods. The overall number of such enterprises at any time were strictly controlled. As a result, informal trading developed outside the legally-recognized activities By 1976 Soweto had only two cinemas and two hotels, and only 20% of houses had electricity. Residents resorted to using fire for cooking and heating, resulting in respiratory problems that contributed to high infant mortality rates (54 per 1,000 compared to 18 for whites, 1976 figures

Soweto was the birthplace of...
Cyril Ramaphosa (born 1952), lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and businessman Tokyo Sexwale (born 1953), businessman and former politician, anti-apartheid activist, and political prisoner Jomo Sono (born 1955), a South African soccer club owner and coach and also a former star soccer player Doctor Khumalo (born 1967), soccer player Lucas Radebe (born 1969), former soccer player and national team captain Mandoza (born 1978), kwaito musician Bonginkosi Dlamini, aka. Zola, poet, actor, and musician Frank Chikane (born 1951), anti-apartheid activist and life-long resident.

Local News
The Sowetan - The Sowetan is an English language, South African newspaper that started in 1981 as a liberation struggle newspaper and was freely distributed to households in the black township of Soweto, Johannesburg, Gauteng Province. Although a lot of its content has changed since then, it still holds most of the respect it did during the apartheid years.


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