George Harrison is today credited as the man who discovered an outcrop of the Main Reef of gold on the farm Langlaagte in February 1886. The fledgling town of Johannesburg was laid out on a triangular wedge of "uitvalgrond" (area excluded when the farms were surveyed) named Randjeslaagte, situated between the farms Doornfontein to the east, Braamfontein to the west and Turffontein to the south. Within ten years of the discovery of gold in Johannesburg, 100,000 people flocked to this part of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic in search of riches. They were of all races and all nationalities. In October 1887 the government of the ZAR bought the south-eastern portion of the farm Braamfontein. There were large quantities of clay, suitable for brickmaking, along the stream. The government decided that more money was to be made from issuing brick maker's licences at five shillings per month. The result was that many landless Dutch-speaking burghers (citizens) of the ZAR settled on the property and started making bricks. They also erected their shacks there. Soon the area was known either Brickfields or Veldschoendorp. Soon other working poor, Coloureds, Indians and Africans also settled there. The government, who sought to differentiate the white working class from the black, laid out new suburbs for the Burghers (Whites), Coolies (Indians), Malays (Coloureds) and Kaffirs (Africans), but the whole area simply stayed multiracial.
In April 1904 there was a bubonic plague scare in the shanty town area of Brickfields. The town council decided to condemn the area and burn it down. Beforehand most of the Africans living there were moved far out of town to the farm Klipspruit (later called Pimville), south-west of Johannesburg, where the council had erected iron barracks and a few triangular hutments. The rest of them had to build their own shacks. The fire brigade then set the 1600 shacks and shops in Brickfields alight. Thereafter the area was redeveloped as Newtown. Pimville was next to Kliptown, the oldest Black residential district of Johannesburg and first laid out in 1891 on land which formed part of Klipspruit farm. The future Soweto was to be laid out on Klipspruit and the adjoining farm called Diepkloof.
It is important to note that in die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the subsequent Transvaal Colony it was not unlawful for people of colour to own fixed property. Consequently, the township of Sophiatown was laid out in 1903 and Blacks were encouraged to buy property there. For the same reasons Alexandra, Gauteng was planned for Black ownership in 1912. The subsequent Natives Land Act of 1913 did not change the situation because it did not apply to land situated within municipal boundaries.
In 1923 the Parliament of the Union of South Africa passed the Natives (Urban Areas) Act (Act No. 21 of 1923). The purpose of the Act was to provide for improved conditions of residence for natives in urban areas, to control their ingress into such areas and to restrict their access to intoxicating liquor. The Act required local authorities to provide accommodation for Natives (then the polite term for Africans or Blacks) lawfully employed and resident within the area of their jurisdiction. Pursuant to this Act the Johannesburg town council formed a Municipal Native Affairs Department in 1927. It bought 1 300 morgen of land on the farm Klipspruit No. 8 and the first houses in what was to become Orlando Location were built there in the latter half of 1930. The township was named after the chairman of the Native Affairs committee, Mr. Edwin Orlando Leake. In the end some 10,311 houses were built there by the municipality. In addition it built 4,045 temporary single-room shelters.
In about 1934 James Sofasonke Mpanza moved to 957 Pheele Street, Orlando, and lived there for the rest of his life. A year after his arrival in Orlando he formed his own political party, the Sofasonke Party. He also became very active in the affairs of the Advisory Board for Orlando. Towards the end of World War II there was an acute shortage of housing for Blacks in Johannesburg. By the end of 1943 the Sofasonke Party advised its members to put up their own squatters' shacks on municipal property. On Saturday 25 March 1944 the squat began. Hundreds of homeless people from Orlando and elsewhere joined Mpanza in marching to a vacant lot in Orlando West and starting a squatters camp. The City Council's resistance crumbled. After feverish consultations with the relevant government department, it was agreed that an emergency camp, which could house 991 families, be erected. It was to be called Central Western Jabavu. The next wave of land invasions took place in September 1946. Some 30,000 squatters congregated west of Orlando. Early the next year the City Council proclaimed a new emergency camp. It was called Moroka. 10,000 sites were made available immediately. Moroka became Johannesburg's worst slum area. Residents erected their shanties on plots measuring six metres by six metres. There were only communal bucket-system toilets and very few taps. The camps were meant to be used for a maximum of five years, but when they were eventually demolished in 1955, Moroka and Jabavu housed 89,000 people.
In 1941 the British Government built a military hospital next to the road between Johannesburg and Potchefstroom. The exact place was to be at the 8th milestone near the old Wayside Inn, owned by a Cornishman called John Albert Baragwanath. It was called The Imperial Military Hospital, Baragwanath. After the war the Transvaal Provincial Administration bought the hospital for £1 million. On 1 April 1948 the Black section of Johannesburg Hospital (known as Non-European Hospital or NEH) was transferred to Baragwanath Hospital. In 1997 the facility was renamed Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital after former General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani.
The National Party won the general election of 1948 and formed a new government. The party's policy was (and still is) called apartheid, the Afrikaans word meaning separateness. They thought they could separate the various racial groups in South Africa. In those days the Johannesburg City Council did not support the National Party. The City Council and the central government competed to control the Black townships of Johannesburg.
Following the election of the new government, some 7,000 new houses were built in the first two or three years, but very little was done thereafter. In 1952 there was a breakthrough. Firstly the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research came up with a standard design for low-cost, four-roomed, forty-square-metre houses. In 1951 the Parliament passed the Bantu Building Workers Act, which permitted Blacks to be trained as artisans in the building trade. In 1952 it passed the Bantu Services levy Act, which imposed a levy on employers of African workers and the levy was used to finance basic services in Black townships. In 1954 the City Council built 5,100 houses in Jabavu and 1,450 in Mofolo.
The City Council's pride and joy was its economic scheme known as Dube Village. It was intended "primarily for the thoroughly urbanised and economically advanced Native". Stands, varying in size from fifty by hundred feet to forty by 70 feet, were made available on a thirty-year leasehold tenure. Tenants could erect their own dwellings in conformity with approved plans.
In June, 1955, Kliptown was the home of an unprecedented Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter.
The new sub-economic townships took off in 1956, when Tladi, Zondi, Dhlamini, Chiawelo and Senoane were laid out providing 28,888 people with accommodation. Jabulani, Phiri and Naledi followed the next year. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer arranged a loan of £3 million from the mining industry, which allowed an additional 14,000 houses to be built. It was decided to divide Soweto into various language groups. Naledi, Mapetla, Tladi, Moletsane and Phiri were for Sotho- and Tswana-speaking people. Chiawelo for Tsonga and Venda. Dlamini Senaoane, Zola, Zondi, Jabulani, Emdeni and White City were for Zulus and Xhosas.
The central government was busy with its own agenda. The presence of Blacks with freehold title to land among Johannesburg's White suburbs irked them. In 1954 Parliament passed the Native Resettlement Act, which permitted the government to remove Blacks from suburbs like Sophiatown, Martindale, Newclare and Western Native Township. Between 1956 and 1960 they built 23,695 houses in Meadowlands and Diepkloof to accommodate the evicted persons. By 1960 the removals were more-or-less complete.
In 1959 the City Council launched a competition to find a collective name for all the townships south-west of the city's centre. It was only in 1963 that the City Council decided to adopt the name Soweto as the collective name.
In 1971 Parliament passed the Black Affairs Administration Act, No. 45 of 1971. In terms of this Act the central government appointed the West Rand Administration Board to take over the powers and obligations of the Johannesburg City Council in respect of Soweto. As chairman of the board it appointed Manie Mulder, a political appointment of a person who had no experience of the administration of native affairs. Manie Mulder's most famous quote was given to the Rand Daily Mail in May 1976: "The broad masses of Soweto are perfectly content, perfectly happy. Black-White relationships at present are as healthy as can be. There is no danger whatever of a blow-up in Soweto."
Soweto came to the world's attention on 16 June 1976 with the Soweto Uprising, when mass protests erupted over the government's policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than their native language. Police opened fire in Orlando West on 10,000 students marching from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium. The rioting continued and 23 people died on the first day in Soweto, 21 of whom were black, including the minor Hector Pieterson, as well as two white people, including Dr Melville Edelstein, a lifelong humanitarian.
The impact of the Soweto protests reverberated through the country and across the world. In their aftermath, economic and cultural sanctions were introduced from abroad. Political activists left the country to train for guerrilla resistance. Soweto and other townships became the stage for violent state repression. Since 1991 this date and the schoolchildren have been commemorated by the International Day of the African Child.
In response, the apartheid state started providing electricity to more Soweto homes, yet phased out financial support for building additional housing.
Soweto became an independent municipality with elected black councilors in 1983, in line with the Black Local Authorities Act. Previously the townships were governed by the Johannesburg council, but from the 1970s the state took control.
Black African councilors were not provided by the apartheid state with the finances to address housing and infrastructural problems. Township residents opposed the black councilors as puppet collaborators who personally benefited financially from an oppressive regime. Resistance was spurred by the exclusion of blacks from the newly formed tricameral Parliament (which did include Whites, Asians and Coloreds). Municipal elections in black, coloured, and Indian areas were subsequently widely boycotted, returning extremely low voting figures for years. Popular resistance to state structures dates back to the Advisory Boards (1950) that co-opted black residents to advise whites who managed the townships.
In Soweto, popular resistance to apartheid emerged in various forms during the 1980s. Educational and economic boycotts were initiated, and student bodies were organized. Street committees were formed, and civic organizations were established as alternatives to state-imposed structures. One of the most well-known "civics" was Soweto's Committee of Ten, started in 1978 in the offices of The Bantu World newspaper. Such actions were strengthened by the call issued by African National Congress's 1985 Kabwe congress in Zambia to make South Africa ungovernable. As the state forbade public gatherings, church buildings like Regina Mundi were sometimes used for political gatherings.
In 1995, Soweto became part of the Southern Metropolitan Transitional Local Council, and in 2002 was incorporated into the City of Johannesburg. A series of bomb explosions rocked Soweto in October 2002. The explosions, believed to be the work of the Boeremag, a right wing extremist group, damaged buildings and railway lines, and killed one person.
As Soweto was counted as part of Johannesburg in South Africa's 2008 census, recent demographic statistics are not readily available. It has been estimated that 40% of Johannesburg's residents live in Soweto. However, the 2008 Census put its population at 1.3 million (2010) or about one-third of the city's total population.
Soweto's population is predominantly black. All eleven of the country's official languages are spoken, and the main linguistic groups (in descending order of size) are Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, and Tsonga.Area: 200.03 square kilometres (77.23 sq mi)
Population: 1,271,628: 6,357.29 inhabitants per square kilometre (16,465.3/sq mi)
Households: 355,331: 1,776.42 per square kilometre (4,600.9/sq mi)
Area: 106.44 square kilometres (41.10 sq mi)
Population: 858,644: 8,066.81 inhabitants per square kilometre (20,892.9/sq mi)
Households: 237,567: 2,231.9 per square kilometre (5,781/sq mi)
Soweto landmarks include:Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Diepkloof
Soweto Wall of Fame
Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown
Regina Mundi, Rockville
SAAF 1723, a decommissioned Avro Shackleton of the South African Air Force is on static display on the roof of Vic's Viking Garage, a service station on the Golden Highway.
Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as subtropical highland (Cwb).
The suburb was not historically allowed to create employment centres within the area, so almost all of its residents are commuters to other parts of the city.
Metrorail operates commuter trains between Soweto and central Johannesburg. Soweto train stations are at Naledi, Merafe, Inhlazane, Ikwezi, Dube, Phefeni, Phomolong, Mzimhlophe, Mlamlankunzi, Orlando, Nancefield, Kliptown, Tshiawelo and Midway.
The N1 Western Bypass skirts the eastern boundary of Soweto. There is efficient road access for many parts of the region along busy highways to the CBD and Roodepoort, but commuters are largely reliant on trains and taxis.
The N12 forms the southern border of Soweto.
A new section of the N17 road (South Africa) is under construction that will provide Soweto with a 4 lane highway link to Nasrec.
The M70, also known as the Soweto Highway, links Soweto with central Johannesburg via Nasrec and Booysens. This road is multi lane, has dedicated taxiways and passes next to Soccer City in Nasrec.
A major thoroughfare through Soweto is the Golden Highway. It provides access to both the N1 as well as the M1 highways.
Minibus taxis are a popular form of transport. In 2000 it was estimated that around 2000 minibus taxis operated from the Baragwanath taxi rank alone.
A Bus rapid transit system, Rea Vaya, provides transport for around 16 000 commuters daily.
PUTCO has for many years provided bus commuter services to Soweto residents.
The area is mostly composed of old "matchbox" houses, or four-room houses built by the government, that were built to provide cheap accommodation for black workers during apartheid. However, there are a few smaller areas where prosperous Sowetans have built houses that are similar in stature to those in more affluent suburbs. Many people who still live in matchbox houses have improved and expanded their homes, and the City Council has enabled the planting of more trees and the improving of parks and green spaces in the area.
Hostels are another prominent physical feature of Soweto. Originally built to house male migrant workers, many have been improved as dwellings for couples and families.
In 1996, the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality awarded tenders to Conrad Penny and his company Penny Brothers Brokers & Valuers (Pty) Ltd. for the valuation of the whole of Soweto (which at the time consisted of over 325 000 properties) for rating and taxing purpose. This was the single largest valuation ever undertaken in Africa.
Being part of the urban agglomerations of Gauteng, Soweto shares much of the same media as the rest of Gauteng. There are however some media sources dedicated to Soweto itself:Soweto Online is a geographical-based information-sharing portal.
Soweto Internet Radio is a digital media network company established in 2008.
Soweto TV is a community television channel, available on DStv channel 251.
The Sowetan newspaper has a readership of around 1.6 million.
Kasibiz Mahala is a free community magazine that promotes local small businesses established in 2012.
Hector Pieterson Museum, Orlando West
Nelson Mandela National Museum, Orlando West
Regina Mundi church, Rockville
Soweto is credited as one of the founding places for Kwaito and Kasi Rap, which is a style of hip-hop specific to South Africa. This form of music, which combined many elements of house music, American hip-hop, and traditional African music, became a strong force amongst black South Africans.
Soweto is home to two soccer teams that play for the top South African football league: the Kaizer Chiefs and the Moroka Swallows. Another club, the Orlando Pirates, originated from Soweto but moved to Parktown. Both the Chiefs and the Pirates feud in the rivalry known as the Soweto derby.The Soweto Open tennis tournament, part of the Challenger Tour is annually hosted in Soweto.
The annual Soweto marathon is run over a 42.2-kilometre (26.2 mi) course through Soweto.
The Soweto Wine Festival was started in 2004. The three-night festival is hosted at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus on Chris Hani Road in the first weekend of September. Organised by the Cape Wine Academy, the festival attracts over 6000 wine enthusiasts, over 100 of South Africa's finest wineries and well over 900 fine wines.FNB Stadium, South Africa's largest stadium; home ground of both the national team and the Kaizer Chiefs
Eldorado Park Stadium
Dobsonville Stadium, home ground of Moroka Swallows
Orlando Stadium, home ground of Orlando Pirates
By 2003 the Greater Soweto area consisted of 87 townships grouped together into Administrative Regions 6 and 10 of Johannesburg.
Estimates of how many residential areas make up Soweto itself vary widely. Some counts say that Soweto comprises 29 townships, whilst others find 34. The differences may be due to confusion arising from the merger of adjoining townships (such as Lenasia and Eldorado Park) with those of Soweto into Regions 6 and 10. The total number also depends on whether the various "extensions" and "zones" are counted separately, or as part of one main suburb. The 2003 Regional Spatial Development Framework arrived at 87 names by counting various extensions (e.g. Chiawelo's 5) and zones (e.g. Pimville's 7) separately. The City of Johannesburg's website groups the zones and extensions together to arrive at 32, but omits Noordgesig and Mmesi Park.
The list below provides the dates when some of Soweto's townships were established, along with the probable origins or meanings of their names, where available:
Other Soweto townships include Phomolong and Snake Park
Many parts of Soweto rank among the poorest in Johannesburg, although individual townships tend to have a mix of wealthier and poorer residents. In general, households in the outlying areas to the northwest and southeast have lower incomes, while those in southwestern areas tend to have higher incomes.
The economic development of Soweto was severely curtailed by the apartheid state, which provided very limited infrastructure and prevented residents from creating their own businesses. Roads remained unpaved, and many residents had to share one tap between four houses, for example. Soweto was meant to exist only as a dormitory town for black Africans who worked in white houses, factories, and industries. The 1957 Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act and its predecessors restricted residents between 1923 and 1976 to seven self-employment categories in Soweto itself. Sowetans could operate general shops, butcheries, eating houses, sell milk or vegetables, or hawk goods. The overall number of such enterprises at any time were strictly controlled. As a result, informal trading developed outside the legally-recognized activities.
By 1976 Soweto had only two cinemas and two hotels, and only 83% of houses had electricity. Up to 93% of residents had no running water. Using fire for cooking and heating resulted in respiratory problems that contributed to high infant mortality rates (54 per 1,000 compared to 18 for whites, 1976 figures.
The restrictions on economic activities were lifted in 1977, spurring the growth of the taxi industry as an alternative to Soweto's inadequate bus and train transport systems.
In 1994 Sowetans earned on average almost six and a half times less than their counterparts in wealthier areas of Johannesburg (1994 estimates). Sowetans contribute less than 2% to Johannesburg's rates. Some Sowetans remain impoverished, and others live in shanty towns with little or no services. About 85% of Kliptown comprises informal housing. The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee argues that Soweto's poor are unable to pay for electricity. The committee believes that the South African government's privatization drives will worsen the situation. Research showed that 62% of residents in Orlando East and Pimville were unemployed or pensioners.
There have been signs recently indicating economic improvement. The Johannesburg City Council began to provide more street lights and to pave roads. Private initiatives to tap Sowetans' combined spending power of R4.3 billion were also planned, including the construction of Protea Mall, Jabulani Mall, the development of Maponya Mall, an upmarket hotel in Kliptown, and the Orlando Ekhaya entertainment centre. Soweto has also become a centre for nightlife and culture.
The 1976 uprising is depicted in the film A Dry White Season (1989), starring Donald Sutherland, Marlon Brando, and Susan Sarandon, who portray white South Africans pursuing justice for the deaths of black Soweto residents which followed the demonstrations.
The American film Stander (2003) portrays the story of Andre Stander, a rogue police captain who sympathised with the state of apartheid and its corruption by becoming a bank thief. The Soweto uprising riots provided Stander's breaking point in the film.
Sara Blecher and Rimi Raphoto's popular documentary, Surfing Soweto (2006), addresses the phenomenon of young kids "surfing" on the roofs of Soweto trains and the social problem this represents.
The film District 9 (2009) was shot in Tshiawelo, Soweto. The plot involves a species of aliens who arrive on Earth in a starving and helpless condition, seeking aid. The originally benign attempts to aid them turn increasingly oppressive due to the overwhelming numbers of aliens and the cost of maintaining them, and to increasing xenophobia on the part of humans who treat the intelligent and sophisticated aliens like animals while taking advantage of them for personal and corporate gain. The aliens are housed in shacks in a slum-like concentration camp called "District 9", which is in fact modern-day Soweto; an attempt to relocate the aliens to another camp leads to violence and a wholesale slaughter by South African mercenary security forces (a reference to historical events in "District Six", Cape Town, a mostly Coloured neighborhood subjected to forced segregation during the apartheid years). The parallels to apartheid South Africa are obvious but not explicitly remarked on in the film.
The marches by students in Soweto are briefly mentioned in Linzi Glass' novel, Ruby Red, which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2008.
Soweto is also mentioned in Sheila Gordon's novel, Waiting for the Rain.
The main protagonist from the Jonas Jonasson Novel The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Nombeko Mayeki was born in 1961 in Soweto.
Clarence Carter has a song called "The Girl From Soweto" or "Where did the girl go, from Soweto".
Soweto is mentioned in the song "Burden of Shame" by the British band UB40, on their album Signing off (1980).
Singer–songwriter Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, referenced Soweto in his solo album Streetcore (song: "Arms Aloft"), as well as in The Clash's track, "Where You Gonna Go (Soweto)", found on the album London Calling (Legacy Edition).
The UK music duo Mattafix have a song called "Memories Of Soweto" on their album Rhythm & Hymns (2007).
Soweto is mentioned in the anti-apartheid song "Gimme Hope Jo'anna" by Eddy Grant. The line, "While every mother in a black Soweto fears the killing of another son", refers to police brutality during apartheid.
Miriam Makeba has the song: "Soweto Blues".
Dr. Alban's song "Free Up Soweto" was included in the album Look Who's Talking (1994).
The Mexican group Tijuana No! recorded the song "Soweto" for their first album No, in reference to the city and the movements.
"Soweto" is the name of a song by the rap group Hieroglyphics.
The American band Vampire Weekend refers to its own musical style, a blend of indie rock and pop with African influences, as "Upper West Side Soweto", based on the same description of Paul Simon's album Graceland.
"Soweto" is the title of the opening track of the album Joined at the Hip, by Bob James and Kirk Whalum.
Soweto is the birthplace of:Frank Chikane (born 1951), anti-apartheid activist and lifelong resident
Bonginkosi Dlamini, aka" Zola", poet, actor, and musician
Morgan Gould (born 1983), Association football player who plays for Supersport United F.C.
Doctor Khumalo (born 1967), football player
Bakithi Kumalo, bass guitar player.
Jack Lerole musician, famous for penny whistle performance
Kgosi Letlape (born 1959), South Africa's first black ophthalmologist
Lebo M., composer
Mandoza (1978 - 2016), kwaito musician
Richard Maponya businessman, anti-apartheid activist
Teko Modise footballer
Kaizer Motaung (born 16 October 1944), is founder and chairman of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club.
Lucas Radebe (born 1969), former Leeds United and national team captain
Cyril Ramaphosa (born 1952), lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and businessman
Tokyo Sexwale (born 1953), businessman and former politician, anti-apartheid activist, and political prisoner
Jomo Sono (born 1955), a South African football club owner and coach and a former star soccer player
Siphiwe Tshabalala (born 1984) South Africa footballer who plays for Kaizer Chiefs Football Club.
Khanyi Mbau Actress and Television personality born 1985 and raised in Mofolo.
Teboho MacDonald Mashinini, (1957 - 1990), was the primary student leader of the June 1976 Soweto Uprising, that spread across South Africa.
Trevor Noah (born 1984), South African comedian, TV and radio host, actor, and host of The Daily Show.
Other residentsGibson Kente (1932–2004), playwright.
Irvin Khoza (born 27 January 1948) is a South African football administrator and Chairman of Orlando Pirates.
Aggrey Klaaste (1940–2004), newspaper journalist and editor.
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) spent many years living in Soweto. His Soweto home in Orlando is currently a major tourist attraction.
Lilian Ngoyi (1911–1980), anti-apartheid activist, who spent 18 years under house arrest in Mzimhlope.
Steven Pienaar (born 1982), Everton F.C. and national team football player
Hector Pieterson (1964–1976), the first student to be killed during the 1976 uprising in Soweto. A picture where the dying Hector is carried away by a man became a famous press photo. Today a memorial and museum named after him in Orlando West reminds of the 1976 Student Uprising.
Percy Qoboza (1938–1988), newspaper journalist and editor.
Gerard Sekoto (1913–1993), artist who lived in Kliptown before emigrating to France in 1947.
Desmond Tutu (born 1931), cleric and activist who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s, through his opposition to apartheid.
Well-known artists from Soweto, besides those mentioned above, include:The Soweto Gospel Choir. Songs and interview from NPR's All Things Considered Soweto Gospel Choir: 'Voices from Heaven', 4 February 2005.
Soweto String Quartet
Soweto Melodic Voices, the youth choir selected to sing at the 2009 Confederations Cup. It has built its name in UK on Fringe festival in Edinburgh Scotland.
Films that include Soweto scenes:Tau ya Soweto (2005).
Hijack stories (2000)