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About Soweto

South Western Townships or, Soweto as it later became known, is a sprawling township on the south western outskirts of Johannesburg. Much of Soweto is still impoverish but parts of it have outgrown its township tag and taken on the status of middle class suburbs. It is estimated that forty percent of Johannesburg's residents live in Soweto.

It was a hotbed of resistance during the fight against Apartheid with many of its residents playing a key role in the dismantling of the Nationalist Party's oppressive regime. Vilakazi Street for instance, is widely known as the street in which Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once resided and is billed as the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Laureates once lived.

Parts of the township have become huge tourist attractions and a high percent of tourists travelling to Johannesburg make the trip to Soweto.

Quick Facts

Province: Gauteng
Region: Central Gauteng
Country: South Africa

Why go?

- visit Vilakazi Street the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Laureates once lived
- visit the Hector Pieterson Museum
- take in a soccer match at either Mamelodi Stadium or Soccer City - venue for the 2010 Soccer World cup final
- go bungy jumping at the Orlando Towers
- take the hop-on, hop-off red bus trip and discover the history of Soweto
- savour the local food in one of the many restaurants and taverns all over the place

History icon


In 1904 British authorities moved black and Indian residents from the edge of the CBD to Klipspruit further south west of the city. Two other townships were established and eventually Pimville in 1934 and Orlando in 1935 followed.

As the Nationalist government expanded their policy of separate development for different race groups, Soweto's population increased dramatically. Soweto became etched in the general consciousness for its vociferous resistance against the Apartheid government, particularly through the tumultuous Soweto Uprising of 1976. It was also immortalised in a number of songs by popular bands and musicians (both local and international).

On 16 June of that year students revolted against being instructed in Afrikaans. Police opened fire on thousands of students and 23 people, including a minor, Hector Pieterson, died on that first day of the unrest. The impact of the unrest reverberated around the world. In its aftermath economic and cultural sanctions were imposed against the South African government and pressure began to be exerted on the nationalist government of the day.

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