The entire team will start arriving into O.R. Tambo Airport beginning tomorrow (Friday) morning through evening. Hopefully after a day and evening of acclimating to the COLD and 7 hour time difference following their 15 – 32 hour travels to arrive in Johannesburg they will be ready to tour a bit on Saturday morning. My S. African friends have been helping me get a tour together of Soweto. Soweto is a famous or notorious, former township that came about during the times of Apartheid. Starting about 15 km away from the centre of Johannesburg, it comprises some 63 sq. km, where an estimated TWO MILLION people live. Originally the townships were only temporary living quarters for the mine workers. However after the infamous “Urban Areas Act” in 1923, Soweto, like the many other townships. was declared a ghetto for the black population of Johannesburg. Although the government had a housing program to build hundreds of thousands of plain two-room houses that never came to fruition, the illegal squatter camps kept on growing and spreading around S. Africa.
In order to understand the emotionally laden history of Soweto, one must also understand about Apartheid. Apartheid (an Afrikaans term meaning: separateness) was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority non-white inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and minority rule by white people was maintained. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups (“black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Indian”), and residential areas were segregated (sometimes through forced removals), and from 1958, black people were deprived of their citizenship. Everything became segregated: education, medical care, and other public services, with services inferior to those of white people. Afrikaans was the national language that only whites were allowed to speak. Over time, Apartheid sparked a series of significant internal resistance and violence which lead to imprisoning or killing anti-apartheid leaders or followers. During this time a long trade embargo was established by many countries against South Africa. One of a series of clashes occurred in Soweto, on June 16, 1976 between black youths and the South African authorities. Some news agencies reported that “more than 500″ fatalities occurred with the number of wounded estimated to be over a thousand men, women, and children. While the original government figure reportedly claimed only 23 students were killed. It’s easy to see why Soweto is an important place for all visitors to see – it is indeed hallowed ground where blood was shed by many who were willing to die for their rights.
Some of you may be wondering what has happened with our Van /microbus situation. After negotiation, it was determined we would pay R1200 (~$150′ish) each day for driver, and we would pay for petrol ourselves along the way as well as the drivers lodging. The other point of negotiation was to return to Johannesburg 2 days earlier than planned (i.e., Sunday, 8-August rather than Tuesday, 10-August), so we save a little bit of R$R$. Of course the continuing saga about WHERE we will work in Vredeforte Dome is still forming into a plan. The lastest plan (I believe we are on Plan E or Plan F) is that we will work at Old Folks Homes and Preschools/Creches while we are in the area.