Pertinent Facts and Figures About Soweto South Africa

Soweto, South Africa has been called a place of gold, mainly because it was once the spotlight for a gold rush where hundreds of African blacks uprooted themselves to move to Soweto. Their hope was to one day find enough to live a better life, replete with a decent home, kitchen appliances and good service delivery.

Soweto is considered a metropolitan municipality of Johannesburg. It has an area of approximately 150 square kilometers. It’s 2010 population rose to 2 million from 1.3 million in 2008. The population is composed of mostly African blacks. The density in Soweto is 7,666 people for every square kilometer. It follows the South Africa UTC+2 standard time.

Translated, Soweto is an abbreviation of South Western Townships. The Soweto riots placed this South African municipality under the international radar in 1976, and has yet to shake off the effects of the tragic events that unfolded on that day. One quick glance at the world news on Soweto will show violent crimes against women, African blacks, and children.

In spite of the international success of Soweto music through the efforts of the Soweto gospel choir, many still retain images of violence and poverty because of the Soweto riots. It also shadows the fact that Soweto is the place where Desmond Tutu chose to put up a private retirement home, or that South African hero, Nelson Mandela chose to donate his home between 1946 to the 1990s now known as the Mandela House. It’s visited regularly by Winnie Mandela but managed by the Soweto Heritage Trust. This is a group comprised of the Johannesburg City, Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture, and Recreation, and the Standard Bank Group.

Landmarks In Soweto

Aside from the Mandela House which was declared a national monument in 1999, there are other important landmarks in Soweto. The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Diepkloof is reported to be the largest hospital ever built spanning 173 acres with over 3,000 beds. It’s also very old with a history that dates back to the 1940s. Unfortunately, a stay in a large state hospital could turn into a more hair-raising ordeal than extreme sport. Indeed, if extreme motocross is something you’re up for, check out www.xstreme.co.za.

The hospital is named after Chris Hani who was the most popular member of the African National Congress (ANC) after Nelson Mandela. He was killed in 1993 by an assassin, 2 years after he became the head of the South African Communist Party.

The hospital currently accommodates more than 2,000 patients every day. Interestingly, half of the patients are HIV positive.

The Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Rockville is another landmark in Soweta. It claims to be the largest Catholic church in the country. Translated, the name of the church means Queen of the World although Sowetans call it the “people’s church.” One of the main attractions in this church is the Black Madonna and Child of Soweto which was painted by Larry Scully to raise money for education in Soweta. In 1998, then US President, Bill Clinton and his wife visited the church and attended mass even if they are not Roman Catholics.

Transportation Around Soweto

Getting around Soweto is done mostly by car, bus, or commuter trains. Since Soweto has no business or financial district, there are very few jobs in the municipality. Most Sowetans have to commute to work outside of Soweto, making the commuter trains extremely crowded during rush hours.

Housing and Accommodations

The old matchbox houses have been retained but improved on with a wide range of property for sale in Soweto. These were the cheap accommodation during the time of the gold rush although they have since been reinforced and renovated. Soweta has more upmarket areas for those who can afford to live in rich communities although majority of Sowetans remain in the matchbox houses.

Entertainment

Soweto has its own TV channel and newspaper. It is known for being the place where Kwaito, hip hop African music was born. There is also the annual Soweto open Tennis Tournament which has been included in the annual Challenger Tour for tennis pros. An annual wine festival takes place around the 3rd quarter of every year, and it is a festive occasion with visitors coming from all over the world.

Telecommunication

Many parts of Soweto still suffer from a profound lack of basic services, which includes the laying of telephone lines, never mind electricity and water-borne sewerage. Private enterprises, however, have made considerable inroads into the telecommunications market: there are more South Africans with cellphones than there are South Africans with access to clean water supplies. Although this statistic is scary, it does mean that the private sector is finding ways to profit themselves, as well as the populace, from the government’s failings. Wireless internet and satellite TV are also becoming increasingly well-proliferated telecommunications media platforms.