Travel diaries

Excursion to Soweto and Johannesburg


Before embarking on our length road trip to Botswana, we spent a day discovering Soweto and Johannesburg on a day trip.

South Africa has the nickname of Rainbow nation, the rainbow nation, because there live many people of different races and cultures, and today it is no longer just black and white. This is the first thing that surprised me about this country. Although the majority of inhabitants are black, there are many South Africans of Indian, Asian, Australian and, of course, also of Dutch and British origin. Seeing the 2010 World Cup stadium, our guideman, Emmanuelle, told us that the colors of the stadium represent the united colors of the different skin tones of the races of the world. Another curious fact that the guide told us: 90% of the trees in the area are not native to South Africa, since many were planted by foreigners.

In this stadium Spain won the World Cup

However, the coexistence between races was not easy for this country, especially for the colonial past and the racial segregation with Apartheid At most exponent That's why, and because I think it's okay to learn about the real life of the places you visit and not only see them, but understand them (if only a little), in South Africa you have to go to Soweto. This group of former municipalities, which are currently part of the Johannesburg metropolitan area, is full of history, specifically about the struggle for freedom.

Soweto has an enormous extension and between one and two million inhabitants. Although the name seems African, it is an abbreviation of "South-Western Townships" as it is southwest of Johannesburg. These municipalities were formed at the beginning of the s. XX to house the black workers from all corners of South Africa who went there to work in the gold mines. At first, only men could live there, who were forced to leave their families in their home towns. Later, when racial segregation was made official in 1948, all Johannesburg blacks, as well as mestizos and Indians, were forced to live in Soweto, 20 km away from the city. And without a special passport they couldn't even visit it.

Soweto's humblest area

Today, Soweto suffers a high unemployment rate, since the mines closed long ago. In addition, it is overcrowded, has poor infrastructure and inadequate housing, but even so, there are neighborhoods around. In the first one we go through, wealthy people live and it is clear that large houses with a garden and garage predominate. However, most are neighborhoods of humble people and there are also many shacks. In some places there are still the "hostels" or long houses where the miners once crowded and that today the government has ceded to the homeless.

To get to Orlando West neighborhoodWe were surprised to see two huge chimneys painted with large murals. They belong to an electric power plant that no longer works, but which in the past was not used to supply Soweto's homes, but only those of the Johannesburg white minority (!). Today it can be done bungee jumping between the two chimneys and have become a reference of the place. It was also in Orlando West where the mythical leader of the fight against Apartheid lived for a long time: Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela House Museum in Soweto

In his youth, the famous Nobel Peace Prize moved to Soweto from his hometown and the first job he had was on duty at a gold mine. Our guide took us to first see the house where his wife Winnie Mandela lived during her husband's twenty-seven years and then accompanied us to the house where Nelson Mandela lived with his first wife. Currently, the house is restored and has become a small museum full of details about the life of Mandela. It is a very small house with a tiny front garden and the entrance fee includes a brief guided tour.

Nelson Mandela House Museum

Our guide kept telling us interesting facts, for example, that curiously on the same street of the old residence of Mandela, another famous Nobel Peace Prize also lives today: Desmond Tutu. He even pointed out what house it was.