News / Africa

Soweto Shows Uneven Development After 18 Years of Democracy

The township of Soweto, a symbol of the struggles against racial discrimination in South Africa, has changed. Eighteen years after Nelson Mandela became president, some promises have not been not kept, although optimism is still present. The former ghetto has turned into a place of hope, a cultural hub where a new middle class has emerged. The road out of poverty is long, however, and challenges remain.

Tourists cycling fearlessly in Soweto are finishing up a historical tour in one of the world's most famous townships, where they are taught about life during white-minority rule, known as apartheid.

On the historic Vilakasi street, where Nobel Prize winners Mandela and Desmond Tutu used to live, we now find fancy cafés, street lights, and a wide display of luxurious cars. When he was released from prison 18 years ago, Mandela promised the Sowetans a better life. The policies of empowerment have led to a new generation determined to prove that "successful" and "Sowetans" could be compatible.

Musa Maphongwane and his business partner Amos Mtsolonga belong to the new generation of Soweto entrepreneurs. They launched a concept of a cheap gaming zone in 2006. Today, they have 11 containers with video games inside, spread out over Soweto. Local kids can come play the latest video games at cheap prices inside the containers.

"Around the township, you find that entertainment for them, is playing soccer. So we thought, maybe if we do this kind of a setup, this will bring another way of kids being able to entertain themselves," said Maphongwane.

A brief goodbye to the last group of tourists for the day, and Nkululeko Shelembe the tour guide goes back to a different Soweto, less shiny.

Just a strip of swamp separates the neat area of Pimville from the shacks of Kliptown. It is here that the freedom charter, a draft of the current South African constitution, was signed in 1955 at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. Despite its historical importance, however, Kliptown has not benefited from the same development as other parts of Soweto.

"Kliptown is still a lower-class area. You still find people that are sharing things that are supposed to be private, like toilets, and communal water systems. You still find taps on the street," said Shelembe. "And for a fact that people are still living in tin houses or that are made of corrugated iron, that really makes it lower class for me."

Soweto, short for South West Township, is made up of 25 districts spread out over 150 square meters, and is home to 1.2 million people.  Because it was diversely developed during apartheid, the post-apartheid development didn't happen at the same pace, says Wits University History Professor Noor Nieftagodien.

"There is development, but it is an uneven development. Because next to that major development, you still have extreme poverty," Nieftagodien said.

Slowly, though, change is coming to Kliptown, too. Just next to the golf course, which separates it from a more affluent area, a string of new houses recently was built to accommodate local families.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lucie wambale from: Beni town
November 30, 2012 4:07 AM
It is ok , you have shown to us what is taking place in soweto, but it coul be better to write on some other lower class area in africa lie in Bukavu/DRC there is a lower class area called Nyamugo in kadutu and other places like Birere quater in Goma. Can you tell me what are the simularty and difference when you compare the soweto in south africa and the Birere communal quater in Goma/DRc

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More