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Johannesburg, Soweto

Sanibonani! (you say Yebo!)
I’m just making the most of reliable internet connection while I can. I have a flight tonight to Zanzibar, back up in Tanzania as it seemed it was going to be too much of a hassle to get a visa for Mozambique….also will be a good chance to practice some Swahili before going to Ilongero.

I had a couple of days doing not too much in Johannesburg, just being lullabied to sleep at night by the sound of sirens in the distance. There are some serious looking fences here! I stayed in a suburb on the outskirts of the city, called Bramley, and came back to stay yesterday to take advantage of the free airport shuttle. There was some big soccer match on Saturday so all day I could hear vuvuzela’s going off….I was tempted to pull mine out and join in. My shuttle to the shops was a BMW with smashed up windows from a recent hijacking attempt – what a cliché!

Sunday I moved from the hostel here to stay in Orlando West in Soweto for 2 nights (sorry Mum & Dad, but I survived). The hostel was done up really nice and I was the only guest the first night so had plenty of attention. It was started by Lebo (now a bit of a celebrity) about 10 years ago when he worked selling crafts in the area and had a lot of tourists wanting to experience more of Soweto. He would take them to his parents’ home and let them stay there and so eventually he opened the hostel. The park opposite the hostel used to be a dumping ground until Lebo but the hostel now runs a youth program there.

On Monday I did a 4 hour bicycle tour around Soweto, which if anyone is ever here I could not recommend more highly. The guys who took us around were so informative and grew up and live in the area so it was interesting to hear how they have seen things change. We were warned if someone yells out “SHOOT” there is no need to duck from a bullet or anything, it simply means someone wants you to take a photo of them haha. Most of the area we saw was pretty nice, of course lot of identical tiny match box houses but no sign of the wired fences in the other Johannesburg suburbs, as we were to learn there is more of a community feel to the area. Thieves are still often dealt by community law – a beating. Homes still have paint over the numbers on houses which was done to confuse the police during apartheid.
We crossed one road though and it was quite a different world. It was the area that was created as a men’s hostel area during the mining days and the sheds still remain which were built for them. There are some apartments starting to go up and a recycling project but it is definitely the poorer area. Went into another shebeen and tried more homemade beer which seems to be a staple of every tour in Africa. I am still not sold.

Orlando West has been the home of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We saw the former home of Nelson Mandela on Vilankuze Street – the only street in the world to have had 2 Nobel Peace prize winners as its residence (also Desmond Tutu). People were so friendly as we rode around “Welcome to Soweto good people” and the kids ran over to high five us – me with my uncoordinated bike riding skills was having some issues high fiving, and most times I ended up wobbling off my bike, to the kids delight. It was so funny as we rode past a pre-school all the kids were out playing and they ran to the fence screaming “abelungu” (white person) and followed us all the way around the corner and all pressed up against the fence absolutely screaming! We were taught some ‘gangsta slang’ – olaola and the response shapshap, which I don’t think I am gangsta enough to pull off. Same with the handshake meaning ‘peace, love and happiness’ with a click at the end…definitely not cool enough to make that look at all natural to me. We had a mid-morning snack of fat cake with chicken liver sausage (the fat cake was yum….the chicken liver sausage just had to be swallowed quickly without thinking about it) and for lunch had a local favourite of Kota. This would be the perfect meal for a hangover or on the way home from the club– ¼ loaf of bread with the middle scooped out and stuffed with hot chips, curry powder (I think), tomato sauce, salami, egg, cheese and some other type of meat, and topped with the scooped out bread.

Also had a ride around Meadowlands, which is the area where thousands of people were moved to after the forced removals of Sophiatown. The area is now known for its music influence and the African beats all night were a welcome change from the sirens.

The last stop of the day was the Hector Peterson memorial at the sight of the 1976 Soweto student uprising. 15,000 students peacefully marched to the police station with a memorandum protesting the Bantu education system when the police opened fire. Hector Peterson, at 13 years old, was one of the youngest students to die on the day. Olive trees line the street from the memorial down the road to the corner he was shot. 19 y/o Mbuyisa Makhubu was famously photographed carrying him to safety – Makhubu was forced to flee the country after harassment by the security services and to this day his mother does not know where he is or even if he is alive. There is a quote from her on a plaque at the memorial, which I think is really beautiful: “Mbuyisa is or was my son. But he is not a hero. In my culture, picking up Hector is not an act of heroism. It was his job as a brother. If he left him on the ground and somebody saw him jumping over Hector, he would never be able to live here.” It is a really nice memorial.

Yesterday I went to the Apartheid Museum. It is a fantastic museum! I spent 5 hours there and that was rushing towards the end. I could easily have spent another couple of hours there. When you buy your ticket it is automatically selected for you and printed whether you are ‘White’ (Blankes) or ‘Non-White’ (Nie Blankes). I was Nie Blankes and so had to use the delegated entrance. In certain areas they have done a great job of setting the atmosphere of the time.
Today I did a day tour of Johannesburg, we went to Constitution Hill which used to be a prison and was used a lot for political prisoners and when they knocked it down they used to bricks to build the new Constitutional Court as a way to show they are building the future from the past. Also went to ‘The Roof of Africa’ – The Carlton Centre - The highest building in all of Africa (only 50 floors but a good view of the city) then as it was getting dark drove through Hillbrow, the most dangerous area of Johannesburg…that was clear when the windows went up haha. Then at one set of lights saw a guy being beaten up on the street. Very interesting place. Was a really good day and good to actually see some of ‘Jozi’. Also drove by Mandela’s Johannesburg house in Haughton. Yes, I am a Mandela stalker.

Ok gotta pack quickly.

Posted by neerg_08 13:36 Archived in South Africa Tagged carlton memorial of museum hill africa top centre peterson backpackers johannesburg soweto apartheid constitution gauteng hector newtown hillbrow lebo’s

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