By Soussou Veronica
Every moment I spend in South Africa embeds beautiful memories in my mind. While I keep relishing the unforgettable time I had in the country last year, the rainbow nation’s gentle voice has not stopped calling and I couldn’t wait to go back to explore another bit of it.
Well, I am here again in this beautiful country. This time, Soweto tops the list of places I want to explore in the city of Johannesburg. “What is so special about Soweto?” My husband asked and I told him every bit of Soweto is history and legend.
It was dark when we got back to Johannesburg so our host took us to a hotel where we lodged till the following day. By dawn, I was already eager to set out to Soweto to see what the neighbourhood looks like.
Soweto is an abbreviation for South Western Townships. It is home to the blacks, full of history, culture, and life. Infused with the struggle against apartheid, Soweto lives to tell its story.
Our first destination, after we had breakfast: Samp and beans – a local food in South Africa prepared from groats (hulled kernels) of maize which looks like a food called Adalu in Nigeria, was the Orlando Towers, which we had spotted from afar while our tour guide was driving towards the place.
I relaxed in the car, filling myself with the pleasant aroma in the atmosphere as we glided to a halt around the amazing Orlando Towers. The Towers, two former cooling towers constructed on a decommissioned coal-fired power station that powered Johannesburg for about 50 years, have great artworks on their walls. The artworks remind me of the stage at Fela’s Afrika Shrine in Lagos, back in Nigeria.
“In the past, you’ll almost never know they were here, but now they are a beehive of adventure activities”, our tour guide said as we approached the site. In the distance, I could see people preparing for a Bungee Jump – an adrenaline pumping leap that is not for the faint-hearted. The mere thought of the jump made me frigid. I held my husband’s hand tightly as we approached the platform and he instantly knew I was scared. He smiled and said, “baby you can do it.” “We’ve not even decided what activities I was going to do,” I said in defence. Eventually, I was guided to wear the harness and take the leap, plunging into the air while having an amazing aerial view of Soweto in one fell swoop.
From Orlando Towers, we headed to the world famous Vilakazi Street, where the houses of two Nobel Laureates: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, are. As we drove into the street, colourful craftworks and clothes – one of the unique features of the rainbow country, caught my eyes.
They were displayed on the roadside and in kiosks by merchants. We didn’t stop to pick anyone, we just headed straight until we got to a restaurant that is just a walking distance from the former Nelson Mandela’s house – now a Museum. Here, we settled down to enjoy a sumptuous lunch. As expected, I went for a local delicacy called Mogodu with pap: tripe-filled stew with hot pap. Our tour guide tried to explain how the stew is made but I was too involved with the meal to listen.
After the meal, we visited the former house of Nelson Mandela, which is now a museum. Inside the building, I was brought face to face with pictures and marks that evidence the terror that Mandela and his family faced during the apartheid era. The visit further helped me to appreciate the sacrifices that Mandela made to create the free South Africa of today and why he is continually celebrated.
After touring the Museum, we spared some moments to shop for crafts and local fabrics. This also gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals, who were ready to answer our questions.
Since the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum is just a few minutes away, we decided to end the tour with a visit to the site. Hector Pieterson is the twelve-year-old boy who was murdered by police gunshot in 1974 during the student uprisings which spread around the country and changed the course of history for South Africa. We saw a priceless photograph showing the unconscious Hector being carried by Makhubo, with Hector’s sister who now works in the museum. The museum is big and has a lot of videos that tell vivid stories that touch the heart.