Soweto is probably the most infamous township in South Africa and is also considered synonymous in Europe for the black resistance during apartheid.
About 4 million people now live in Soweto (South Western Township) on about 120 km2. The former township is located only about 10 kilometers southwest of downtown Johannesburg, was formerly a suburb and is now a separate district of Johannesburg. The area – like the entire Witwatersrand – is a dusty terrain.
Soweto cannot be generalized and has not been as “dangerous” for many years as many older travel guides and especially the press and TV reports still suggest.
Today, however, the Soweto district is still primarily a place of residence for “poor black and colored South Africans” and the crime rate is – as everywhere in the world in such suburbs – disproportionately high.
The notorious former township of Soweto – about 15 kilometers from the center of Johannesburg – today covers an area of almost 100 square kilometers, where officially about a million, but unofficially more than 3 million people live. Originally created as temporary living quarters for the miners, Soweto became the ghetto of the black population of Johannesburg by the “Urban Areas Act” of 1923. Although a state housing program created hundreds of thousands of simple 2-room houses here, the illegal squatter quarters continued to expand.
Soweto stands for the resistance of the black majority against the apartheid regime, especially in the 70s and 80s. When the government decreed in 1976 that English should be discontinued as the language of instruction in secondary schools and that Afrikaans should be introduced instead, there were mass protests by pupils and students in Soweto. The demonstrators were brutally shot together by the police. There were more than 500 victims.
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