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Mandela Informal Settlement

Too cute for this shirt?

Smiles by Mandela's home

Beverly Hills, but not 90210

SOWETO  .........   For the majority of Johannesburg inhabitants, home was in one of the black townships surrounding the city. Soweto (the South Western Township) had a population of 4 million, which I heard was larger than Johannesburg.

The township was huge (140 square kilometers). The tour was safe, but felt very intrusive. We toured the Mandela squatters town, better known as the Mandela Informal Settlement. It was uncomfortable to visit with a dozen tourists.

Established in 1991, the 10,000 residents lived with no electricity or indoor plumbing. There were seven taps located around the community to serve the needs of everyone. All of the residents were on the waiting list for better government housing. But, the wait could be twenty years.

To my great surprise, not all of Soweto was in poverty. There were millionaires - and even some white people - living there. One section, called Beverly Hills, was where Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and Desmond Tutu all had homes.

The residents of Soweto were so friendly. I especially liked talking to some merchants across from Nelson Mandela's home. They saw the tourists as a means of spreading their story around the world. Well, I knew Soweto held a part in the struggle against Apartheid, but I'd forgotten just how. I learned. In 1976 students protested the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction.When they protested, the police fired upon the demonstrators killing a 13 year old boy.

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.