Around 3.5 million people live in Soweto. Only three fire stations and one Hospice with 9 beds. Our Pastor Trevor is telling us one evening while hosting him for dinner. As white South Africans having never set foot in Soweto under the all too mis-conception that Soweto is a dangerous place where white South Africans are not welcome. Without hesitation Trevor invites us on a tour of Soweto, he wants to show us what nonsense this was. Yes, there is poverty within poverty as it’s explained but there are also wealthy suburbs of Soweto and such history.
History we read about, public holidays in remembrance and so on. But to actually go there and experience Soweto, has left both my hubby and I feeling so ignorant. June 16th was the date set and Trevor had his reasons. It was Youth Day.
Babysitter arranged, I began feeling anxious. Will we really be safe, is it wise both parents of three boys go, what if something does happen to us! I mentioned to my neighbour who is a black lady that we were going to Soweto. Her response was, ‘are you crazy, it is not safe, not even I will go there’. Now what, I thought. I trust Trevor and I took comfort in that. I called on my friend Tumelo, a young black South African whom I have never met in the flesh but gotten to know over the net and asked him for his advice. ‘Nonsense, Soweto is safe, plenty white people visit and even live in Soweto’ His opinion, topped with Trevors was enough for me.
After fetching Mandy, our babysitter originally from Zimbabwe, driving home she tells me how much we are going to enjoy it, it will be an eye opener and going on Youth Day, we will see everyone in school uniforms. Mandy goes on to explain the significance of why young and old, all will be wearing a school uniform of sorts. In remembrance of the Soweto Uprising of June 1976.
Wow South Africans, I can’t emphasise enough what an experience it was and hubby and I will go back. Soweto has such history and to actually be there you feel the emotions. I cried when I stood on the very streets those children took to in an innocent protest, unarmed school children. It’s inconceivable to me how police opened fire with live ammo on these children. A day in South African history that is not only never to be forgotten but a day I find shameful. Even though I was all of 2 years old at the time and living in Zimbabwe, my hubby wasn’t even born yet. Most of the children of the uprising are now in their 50’s. Some where there at the Hector Peterson memorial where President Zuma came to lay a wreath and address the crowds that had gathered.
There was a buzz in Soweto, people were out, singing, dancing, mingling, eating and playing. We met some of the school kids and chatted to them about Youth Day and what they aspired to be one day. We went on to Nelson Mandela’s house and Desmond Tutu’s. We chatted to the vendors selling arts and crafts to passers-by. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and so happy to have local white people come and visit.
I grew hungry. We wanted to experience a true Soweto meal. Metro FM had organised a “walk for freedom” event. We went to their huge gazebo presuming that that’s where we can buy some food. Wasn’t long before we realised this was a private event and we were gate crashing. I asked if we could buy a dish or three. Wow, we were welcomed in, given a free ‘bunny chow’, plenty liquids like coke, mineral water and an energy drink. Hubby and I were the only white people I could see and not once did we feel unsafe or unwelcome. The Metro FM events organiser, Jeff came and sat at our table, we got talking, he was so pleased to have us come and experience Soweto. We were told how it meant more as local whites just didn’t go there. Well, most. We spoke about the ignorance and mis-conception about safety. Yes I’m sure some areas are probably not the best to visit. There is so much we didn’t get to see and experience but we will return. Trevor wants to show us his house and the first church he started in Soweto.
Soweto, as mentioned, was a buzz and the streets had such a sense of community, everyone comes out of their houses and mingles on the streets. We can’t wait to take our son there and meet more of the locals. To all S.Africans reading this – seriously, you have to go to know what I’m on about. Oh, one last observation – we met more foreigners in Soweto than any other place in Joburg, that includes the time during the soccer world cup hosted in 2010. I’ll post more photos soon.
Thank you to Trevor, Jeff of Metro FM and all the staff for your kindness and generosity. Next year we will join the Walk For Freedom event and bring as many of our friends as possible.
Have a fantastic day.
via PicsArt Photo Studio