the road to freedom in south africa runs directly from Soweto to the present day ongoing challenges. we took a quick tour of Soweto (the south western townships) in JoBurg today. it is in places exactly what you would expect and in other sections nothing at all like you would expect. people of all backgrounds and economic status live there. there are nice middle class houses - some for very wealthy people and shacks and shanty towns as well as public dorm style living where there are no toilets and no running water.
just last Thursday they celebrated a national holiday here in SA called Youth Day. on June 16th in 1976 students from grade schools through high school were gathering to protest the then recent change under apartheid to school instructions being given only in Afrikaans. they had signed a petition and gathered to deliver it to the government offices when they we fired upon by police and on June 16th of that year students died in a one-sided battle. among them was Hector Pietersen who was thirteen years old.
he had come to the protest with his sister who saw him shot dead by the white Boer police. rioting broke out when township citizens found out their children were being killed and the weeks of violence ensued with police snipers just basically "sport killing" whomever they didn't like the look of. a photographer had captured the moment another boy picked him up and carried him to get medical help - with Hector's sister running alongside. the policy shut off all communications and journalism in the townships by noon that day but this photo got published and the Afrikaaner government could not control the world view and public information about what was happening here and their hateful behavior.
within the townships the one place that politics was "allowed" to go on was the Regina Mundi catholic church. we stopped there and saw some of the bullet holes from the events of the uprising. today they were holding a choir concert there. Bishop Desmond Tutu preached there and Mandela has spoken. it has received numerous visitors including the Clintons - and Michelle Obama is apparently following in our footsteps and will be there on Wednesday (just three days from now.)
then we went to the street which was the home of both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu- both Nobel Peace prize winners. it is said it is the only street in the world that was home to two winners.
today the citizens of Soweto have discovered their home as a tourist mecca for those who wish to see some of the sights related to the fight to end apartheid. so things are improving there. less garbage and more housing for poor people and hospital care.
it is getting late and I feel I have given short shrift to this story so I may return to it later but for now these were some photos to give a bit of a feel for some of the things we saw. early start tomorrow as we go into the Botswana our first camp site.
probably won't hear from me until we get back into SA- two weeks from now but meanwhile I will be recording thoughts and photos for posting when we return. so long for now.......
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