The ultimate tour of Soweto, Johannesburg
Madiba our Hero
It is the month of our father’s birthday, and as South African’s we take this day quite seriously. Every year on July 18th we celebrate Mandela Day. Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world and the ability to make an impact.
The Mandela Day campaign message is: "Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We're asking you to start with 67 minutes." It is encouraged that on this day we observe 67 minutes as a tribute to his legacy and all he did for us as citizens of this country.
In light of this, a tour of Soweto seemed apt and MoAfrika Tours was kind enough to invite me to experience the township in a way I hadn’t before. Being a citizen doesn’t necessarily mean that you have visited and experienced your country the way a tourist has, although I do believe one should.
For close on two decades, MoAfrika has been taking both local and international tourists to those attractions that are considered to be the best places to visit in South Africa. They offer tours in every province which I can guarantee will not only be a memorable experience but also hugely educational.
Our leader, tour guide and entertainer for the Soweto tour was Tsholofelo Mabasa, originally from the North West, he enjoys eating crocodiles, travelling throughout South Africa and most of all teaching people about our heritage.
Being a tourist for a day
We started at the one and only FNB stadium, which very idyllically set the tone for the day. Shaped like a calabash the stadium reminds us of how far we as a country have come in being able to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup which shook the ground beneath us for an entire month and a bit. A memorable moment and a momentous representation!
Soweto in all its glory! This is one of the areas in Johannesburg where you are able to directly contrast the rich from the poor. In the richer parts of Soweto, we see well-built houses, uniquely designed driveways and famous houses which have appeared on local television series such as Muvhango. A few blocks down is the township, the informal settlements, the yards and one of the poorest communities emerge.
We had the privilege of walking through one of these informal settlements, meeting families and many children who were enjoying their time in the sun for their school holiday break. We visited a local creche, greeted and took photos with the amazing teachers who dedicate themselves to educating and growing these children into responsible and educated people of society, I take my hat off to these women.
An eye-opening experience represented through a mere chore such as laundry. Friday is laundry day where women gather together under one communal tap with their fully packed washing baskets and drums to, well, wash their clothes. Which to us city people, is unimaginable.
I fell in love! This was my first visit; I had long wanted to go but never did. I wish I had gone earlier. The energy, the vibe, the people the colour and the atmosphere of this street is incomparable. A truly South African experience and home to Nelson Mandela in the early days of his release from prison.
The street holds so much history with both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu having homes there. Mandela's house has become a museum. It is called the Mandela House Museum and is open for public tours during the week. But there is more to Vilakazi Street. A block away from here Hector Peterson was killed by police during the students' uprising of June 16 1976, today celebrated as Youth Day. Now the Hector Peterson Museum and memorial stand on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets.
The street is named after poet, novelist and intellectual Dr BW Vilakazi who was the first black man to teach at Wits, the University of the Witwatersrand. If you do anything in your life, visit this place. It makes our hearts warm as South Africans remembering the tragedies of our past but also proud of the people who changed that for our generation. For international visitors, if you want a part of SA at its most beautiful, Vilakazi Street certainly offers this.
Next stop was Orlando, Soweto. Famously known for its twin towers offering bungee jumping and the large, lively African braai restaurant Chaf Pozi. Craving good food, an upbeat vibe sprinkled with some adrenaline, it doesn’t get better than this. The open plan restaurant and bar is welcoming, made to make its visitors feel comfortable from their first step into the new and free South Africa.
Of course, no tour of the metropolitan Johannesburg would be complete without a visit to the Apartheid museum. Breath-taking, disturbing, a journey of emotions and so rich in what South Africa stands for. The museum is a stopover point to plot on your map to visit in South Africa. You would be missing out if you hadn’t been.
As we get closer to celebrating Mandela Day, and celebrating Madiba’s 101 birthday, I am thankful for all we have as South Africans. At times it might not seem like a lot but if anything, this tour taught me to be thankful for the history and the people who fought for the luxuries I have today. We have a long way to go as a country and there are still people who are suffering every day, but with the legacy of those before us, nothing is impossible.
To book your MoAfrika Tour visit their website here
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Read my full article on the Apartheid museum here