Friday 11 March 2016

South Africa - Joburg / Pretoria / Soweto - sights

 There’s so many things to see and do in South Africa, but here’s a taster of some of the places I’ve seen on my trips to the country in the Johannesburg area.

One time I also booked a private tour with this company
to take me to see some of the further away sights and also into Soweto. I definitely recommend Touring South Africa – they were very professional, friendly and informative. 

Soweto, Johannesburg

Soweto is a famous and the largest township in Gauteng, near Johannesburg which was set up in 1905 when black people were relocated here from Jo-burg when the bubonic plague broke out and racial separation started. Its name comes from ‘South Western Township’.

Gold had been discovered in the area, bringing thousands of people to Jo-burg – either to work or seeking a fortune. However, after the 3-year Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) the area was devastated – from British concentration camps and the Scorched Earth Policy (homes, animals and crops were all burned). You can see the evidence of mining in the piles of earth uprooted around the area.

The township attracted a lot of media attention on 16 June 1976 with the Soweto Uprising. The government decided to enforce education in Afrikaans, rather than the native language, generating mass protests with thousands of students taking to the streets. The police fired on the rioters, killing 23 people. 21 of the dead where black, including the student Hector Pieterson.

Today more than 1 million people live in Soweto (40% of Jo-burg’s residents) but the population remains mostly black (almost 99%) but all eleven of the country’s official languages are spoken with Zulu being the predominant population.

Some of the poorest parts of Jo-burg are in Soweto with slums still in place.

I went to Kliptown – the oldest party of Soweto and still very much a shanty town.
I visited one of the homes

I also visited the local Youth Program where the organization provides food, sports and access to education and computers to the children. It’s a good charity and Thulani Madondo, a child from the slums and now the program’s founder, has been recognized by the CNN Hereos in 2012 where they collected their award from Susan Sarandon and 50 Cent.

Orlando Power Station & Cooling Towers
These two decorative water towers are a prominent Soweto landmark. They were built in 1951 and are both painted. One is an adertising billboard and one has the largest mural painting in South Africa. Also on these towers you can bungee, base jump and bungee-swing.

FNB Stadium (aka Soccer City), Soweto, Johannesburg

This stadium became iconic during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but has also been the site of significant political events, including mass rallies. It was also the location for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on 10 December 2013. The design is representative of a calabash (African beer pot)

Mandela House

This house in Soweto is where Nelson Mandela lived 1946-1962. It is also just up the road from Tutu House (Archbishop Desmond Tutu's home).

After Mandela's release from prison in 1990, he returned to this house, saying "I have come home at last". However he moved out after only 11 days after suggestions that he find a safer home.

It became a National Heritage Site in 1999.
The bungalow has bullet holes in the wall from attacks.

Inside are some of the original furnishings and memorabilia.

Hector Pieterson memorial and museum

This large museum in Soweto is close to Mandela House and only two streets away from where its namesake Hector Pieterson was shot and killed.

This museum was opened in 2002 to honour Hector and the others who died in the 1976 Soweto uprising.

Hector became infamous as he was the dying subject of an iconic photo of the uprising - he was carried by another student while his sister ran alongside. At 13 he was killed when the police fired on the protesting students on 16 June 1976.

His sister (Antoinette) worked in the museum as a tour guide for years, and I even met her on my visit.

For years 16 June became symbolic for the resistance against apartheid government brutality, however, today is it 'National Youth Day' when South Africa honours young people and focuses on their needs.

Union Buildings (aka The President’s office)

The Union Buildings are the official seat of the South African government and the President's Office.

These landmark buildings are the highest point of Pretoria on top of Meintjieskop hill, close to Church Square and the Voortrekker Monument.

These grand buildings were originally the largest in the country and completed in 1913 after 3 years of building.

They were designed by Sir Herbert Baker in an English monument style - even the clock chimes are identical to Big Ben in London.

They are made from South African light sandstone, while inside the interior is Cape Dutch style.

There are also large gardens filled with indigenous plants and various monuments, including a 9-metre statue of Nelson Mandela.

Church Square

This historic centre of Pretoria features a statue of former President Paul Kruger. This statue is surrounded by four anonymous Boer citizen-soldiers as well as significant buildings including the Palace of Justice, the Old Council Chamber, the General Post Office and the Old Capitol Theatre.

It was at the Palace of Justice that Nelson Mandela's trial took place, where he and a number of other ANC freedom fighters were found guilty of treason and sent to prison.

Melrose House

This elegant British-style mansion house in Pretoria was built in 1886 and named after Melrose Abbey in Scotland.

It was requisitioned as the British forces headquarters during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). It was also the location for the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging which marked the end of the war.

It is now a historic house museum with colourful stained glass windows, plush carpets, ornate ceilings and fireplaces.

Voortrekker Monument

This imposing monument is in a nature reserve in Pretoria and was built to honor the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between 1835-1854 in a mass movement into what is now South Africa.

Even the entrance to the monument is impressive - firstly through a black wrought iron gate with a spear motif, then past a wall with 64 wagons made from decorative granite.

The monument was opened in 1949 and measures 40 metres wide, high and deep.

At the base of the monument is a bronze statue of a Voortrekker woman and her children with black wildebeest chiselled into the walls. Also at each corner of the monument is a statue to represent the Voortrekker leaders.

The two main features are the historical freize and the cenotaph.

The entrance leads to the 'Hall of Heroes', dominated by four huge windows made from yellow Belgium glass. This is where the historical freize is - the largest marble freize in the world. There are 27 panels depicting the history of the Great Trek and the Voortrekkers' daily life.

There is a large circular hole in the middle of the hall's floor through which you can view the cenotaph in the hall below.

The cenotaph is the heart of the monument. I climbed up to the top of the building where you can also look down from the top of the dome to see it.

On 16 December every year at midday a ray of sunlight comes through a gap in the dome and lights up the words on the centre of the cenotoph.

"Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika" (Afrikaans for 'We for Thee, South Africa').

The significance of 16 December is because in 1838 this is when the Battle of Blood River took place. This battle is when at least 15,000 Zulu warriors were sent to attack the Voortrekkers at Ncome River, despite hugely outnumbering the Voortrekkers, the warriors were defeated.

Also in the Cenotaph Hall are the flags of the different Voortrekker Republics and wall tapestries.

Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

This square is outside a shopping centre in Sandton, Jo-burg. It was named after the former President of South Africa in March 2004. During this renaming ceremony (from ‘Sandton Square’) a six metre high statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled.

Christmas decorations in Sandton Square

And I thought I was tall!

Monte Casino in Fourways, Sandton, Johannesburg

This entertainment and leisure complex is home to a casino, two theatres, cinemas and a mall. It’s designed like an Italian village which is a bit bizarre.

We ended up here for a work presentation but I couldn’t resist sampling the unusual (grape) fanta and (cream cheese & chive) popcorn flavours.

This is the first time I noticed a no gun sign in the area – something I never see in Germany or UK.

Pretoria - Jacaranda City

During October and November, Pretoria lives up to its nickname of ‘the JAcaradna City’ because all the beautiful purple blossomed trees come into bloom and the city’s streets are transformed into a colourful and beautiful smelling place.
There are over 40,000 of these trees lining the streets but as it is classed as an ‘invader plant’ (originally imported in the 1880s from Argentina) because they’ve dramatically spread throughout the city and so no more trees are allowed to be planted.

Wandies Place, Soweto

Halfway through my tour we also stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant, serving traditional local food - Wandies Place.

Where I tucked into a delicious buffet feast...

Followed by some jelly and ice cream!

Street entertainment...
I need some fresh air!

Is that a real snake?!

There's so much to see and do in the city and it's surroundings - a real mix of histroy, culture, entertainment and beauty.  It is definitely worth a visit!
I'm always so sad when I have to leave South Africa, but the view from the plane, helps to ease the pain!


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