South Africas Top Attractions – Soweto

Soweto was the site of some of some of the most severe repression during the Apartheid Era and it remains one of the most important historical sites with respect to this time.

Soweto is an urban district of Johannesburg and the name is an abbreviation for SOuth WEstern TOwnships. Soweto has as long a history as Johannesburg and it is very much its own entity separate from its larger and wealthier neighbour.

The city of Johannesburg was founded in 1886 during a Gold Rush at the time. As swarms of African and Indian labourers came to the area in the hopes of work, they were housed away from the main settlement is ghettos to the southwest in the area that would become Soweto (it wouldn’t be called Soweto till 1963).

During WWII, the population of the area exploded as a result of industrialisation and new legislation that prevented Africans from owning land. During this time the Royal Imperial Hospital was built, today it is called the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. This hospital is reputed to be the largest hospital in the world with over 3000 beds on a site occupying 173 acres. Today, more than two thousand patients check in to the hospital daily and nearly half of them are HIV positive.

Soweto also has the unique position of being the only place in the worl to have been the home of two Nobel Prize winners. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have had residences on Vilakazi Street. Nelson Mandela’s former residence is now the Mandela Family Museum where you can learn all about the life and times of the man himself. Other landmarks to visit in the area include Freedom Square in Kliptown, the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum in Orlando West, the Credo Mutwa village and the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Rockville.

That’s the end of our quick overview of what you can expect in the Soweto. If you think you will want to get around by car while in South Africa have a look at our Car Rental South Africa page and have a look at our competitive rates. For some more information have a look at our other South Africa Blogs.

If you have any tips about driving in and around Soweto feel free to let us know. Just leave your message in the comment box below.