South Africa Johannesburg Day 13 and 14

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August 3rd 2013
Published: August 3rd 2013
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Our holiday is winding down now so in a break with tradition we are going to combine the last two days in our blog, mainly because we spent most of day 13 on the road, much of which was flat fields with not a lot to comment on. However, despite roadworks, we made good progress to Johannesburg and even managed to navigate our way through the city, having missed our turning off the ring road.

The hotel proved a vast contrast to our previous stops, being filled with beautiful well-dressed residents - we must have looked like the country cousins, turning up in the dusty pickup truck into the plush resort. We spent the evening wandering around the local streets before finding somewhere to eat in the evening, at a plush little restaurant not far from the hotel. The area around the hotel is very similar to Covent Garden in London. After a lovely meal we strolled back to the hotel to finish the packing ready for the journey home tomorrow.

For our last day we have been on a tour of Soweto, short for South West Township. It can boast the only street in the world that produced two Nobel peace prize winners but more on that later. There is still some of the original housing that was built by the authorities that filled the entire town when it was built in the 1940's. In some ways it is comparable to housing in the UK at that time, two bedrooms and a kitchen-cum-living space and an outside toilet. They all had running water but no electricity. If you compared it to some of the housing we have seen in the Eastern Cape it would be of a very good standard even now. Most of the plots are now privately owned and the original houses have been extended or in some cases have been demolished and replaced with modern houses.

Soweto is now a lot like towns all over the world with more affluent areas such as Orlando but is still has areas of abject poverty. We asked our guide about the areas of shanty towns and he told us that these areas are illegal developments and are occupied by people with drug and alcohol problems or those that fall out of society for other reasons.

This is in sharp contrast to areas like Orlando which contains Nelson Mandela's house, which is now a museum and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu's. Both houses are in the same street and both personalities are Nobel peace laureates. The Nelson Mandela museum is based around the house in which he lived until his incarceration in the sixties. Although the house has been restored it still has the bullet and fire bomb damage that it endured over the years and is filled with pictures and artifacts from his life. Mandela did return to live here after he was released from prison but only for 11 days before he moved. We were told that this was because of the press being camped outside but I think it had more to do with security as this was still in the middle of the liberation struggle and assassinations of political leaders was common place.

We also visited the Hector Pieterson museum. Hector Pieterson was a boy who was shot by the security forces in 1976 for participating in student protests over the compulsory changing of the official language in schools to Africaans. Bearing in mind that most of the teachers were not fluent in this language it caused a lot of unrest across the country and precipitated the student protest movement.

Hector became the face of the 1976 protest because of the iconic press photo of him being carried away form the scene by another student accompanied by Hector's screaming sister. The museum details the student protest movement that included Steve Biko. Most of the student leaders were forced to flee South Africa after the protest to avoid persecution and this included the boy that carried Hector from the scene. He is believed to be dead as he completed his education in Zambia and left to go to Botswana but has not been seen since.

We also visited the house where Mandela now lives so on our trip we have visited all the places he is known to have lived as a free man.

Back home this afternoon.


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