Johannesburg - Two Sides of Soweto

We spent our one full day in Johannesburg on a day tour of Soweto offered by Themba Safaris and Day Tours.  Soweto (short for Southwest Township) is a symbol of all that was wrong with apartheid in South Africa and was a hot bed of unrest and protest during the fight to overturn the racist policies of the national government.  Under apartheid, many Africans were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to remote townships such as this.  Today, Soweto is a peaceful, predominantly black community.
We soon learned that there are two sides to the township.  We started in the posh neighborhood of Diepkloof where two story family homes with 2 car garages and nice vehicles parked out front were the norm.  In contrast to other parts of Johannesburg like Sandton or Rosebank, Soweto doesn't feature high electrified fences.  This part of the township is actually quite safe according to our guide.
A large mall nearby was packed with shoppers.
So far, Soweto was definitely different that we expected.  We soon saw another side of the community though, when we visited a part of town consisting of government sponsored 'matchbox' houses and additional self-made structures (mainly housing livestock).
Small children living in the area ran up to meet our tour group.
Later in the day, we visited a shantytown in the Kliptown suburb of Soweto.  One of the board members of the Kliptown Youth Program led us on our tour.  He was 25 years old and had lived in this community all his life.  He and others had created the Youth Program to eradicate poverty through education.
The dwellings were pieced together using corrugated aluminum, cardboard, and other found materials.  Some of the fences seemed to be made from old mattresses.
We saw a small puppy playing in a yard - some themes of family life transcend class and socioeconomic means.
Colorful laundry contrasted sharply with the winding dusty paths that led through the community.
Our guide invited us into his home where he lived with his mom and four other siblings and encouraged us to take pictures.  Seeing the realities of their lives and constant struggle to survive was sobering.
We continued our tour through the community past more patchwork homes.
A man sitting outside motioned me over and asked that I take his picture.  His smile lit up the area despite the bleak surroundings.  He seemed upbeat and positive.
Port-a-potties were the only sanitation available for the residents.
We looked out over the expanse of the community, thankful for the life we have and saddened that people are forced to live this way.
We gave our guide a generous tip at the end of the tour which was accepted as a donation to support youth programs.  After this experience, I simply wanted to open up my wallet and empty out the contents if it would somehow help people.  If you're interested in making a contribution to the Kliptown Youth Program, the details are here.



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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Johannesburg - Two Sides of Soweto
Johannesburg - Two Sides of Soweto
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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