Soweto is located on the South West of Johannesburg, a city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. Most of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto. The name Soweto is an acronym, made up - in apartheid days - from the first letters of the words “South Western Township”. Soweto is inhabited by over two million people, with homes ranging from extravagant mansions to small one roomed homes. Soweto is a city of enterprise and cultural interaction. It is a popular tourist destination with sites such as Kliptown (where the Freedom Charter was drawn up), the home of former President Nelson Mandela the Hector Petersen Memorial sites, restaurants and shopping malls. Soweto also boasts the largest hospital in Africa.
Sowetans pride themselves on being urbane and streetwise. Most residents in Soweto are rooted in the metropolis. Soweto is a melting pot of South African cultures and has developed its own sub-cultures - especially for the young. Afro-American influence runs deep, but is adapted to local conditions.
From the foot bridge of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest on the continent, one can get a panoramic view of Soweto. In Diepkloof, you will find many grey, four-roomed homes, cynically called 'matchbox houses' by locals. These are the original dwellings constructed to accommodate the first black migrants to the cities who had come in search of greener pastures. Although they are small, locals take pride in their houses and many make an effort to make them homely. In contrast, there are various 'extensions' that have been established to accommodate the relatively affluent. One example is Diepkloof Extension, This suburb boasts beautiful homes, with good roads and all the amenities you would expect to find in prosperous suburbs
Other attractive sights are residences of famous anti-apartheid activists. Just a few kilometres drive from Diepkloof, you arrive at Orlando, the first township of Soweto. Here, you can visit Nelson Mandela's first house which is a popular tourist attraction. Mandela stayed here before he was imprisoned in 1961. Security guards will not let you in, but you can see the modest house clearly enough from the street. You can also have a glimpse of the mansion belonging to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in an affluent part of Orlando West. Archbishop Desmond Tutu's house, the Sisulu residence and the Hector Pieterson memorial museum are in the same neighbourhood. The recently renovated museum offers a detailed account of the events of 1976, including visuals and eye-witness accounts.
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Hector Pieterson Memorial Site
The Hector Pieterson Memorial and museum opened in Soweto in 2002, not far from the spot where 12 year-old Hector was shot on the 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising that today is a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government.
Mandela Family Museum, Soweto
Nelson Mandela's humble house in Orlando West, Soweto, now called the Mandela Family Museum, is an interesting stopover for those keen to imbibe a slice of authentic history on the world's most famous former prisoner.
Soccer City Stadium
LOCATED in Johannesburg’s southwest and only a stone’s throw from one of the country’s football crazy townships, Soccer City was formally known as FNB Stadium and underwent a R1.5-billion makeover for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. More than R120-million has been pumped into the Nasrec precinct, in which the stadium falls. The precinct has a fully functional transport hub, including a railway station. The rail system serves the industrial, commercial and residential developments planned for the area.
Regina Mundi & Thokoza Park
This is one of the biggest Catholic churches in South Africa. The Regina Mundi Church was the focal point of much of the struggle in the 70's and 80's and home to the famous Black Madonna and Child painting.
Maponya Mall is the heartbeat of Soweto. It is the hub where fashion and style meets choice and function. Where South Africa's vibrant and trendy Sowetan community gather to shop, socialise, eat, and to see and be seen.