A Bike Tour Through Soweto
POSTED BY Mavy | June 10, 2015
South Africa is a country full of history and beautiful scenery. On city which played huge significance in the nation’s history is Johannesburg. Today a modern bustling city, it has come a long way from it’s turbulent past. While there are many places to visit in Johannesburg, we took a look at how you can discover one part of the city and learn a little more about this incredible settlement.
Soweto is one of the most historically important cities in Africa. It has a long living history of the South African struggle against the apartheid and continues to hold a high importance as a reminder to the country men and women. Located southwest of the large city of Johannesburg, Soweto is the largest black municipality in South Africa with 98% of 1.3 million being of black ethnicity. The city was created in the 1930s as a part of the White government's attempt to separate blacks from whites.
Early settlements in Soweto were predominantly poor and occupied by the rich whites and the poor blacks. The two were not only separated along the lines of financial well being, but also physical ones. The rich lived in a separate part of town which had better housing and infrastructure. On the other hand, the poor settled in slums characterised by squalid living conditions.
The discovery of gold was another critical historical moment. It resulted in further oppression of blacks for the purpose of keeping them away from being able to own land and prospect for gold. Even with this barrier, blacks still realised the potential benefits of establishing businesses around the prospective gold mines. Business ventures bloomed in areas around Soweto as an alternative way to make money from the promising findings. Blacks were only limited to work as manual labor miners on the fields as a way to earn money.
The movement of people to Johannesburg was much fuelled by economic prospects and promises. As blacks saw that there was opportunity, however small, they salvaged the little amounts of resources they had in order to make the move from villages to the big town. To combat a steadily increasing influx of settlers, the government saw segregated housing as a way to control blacks.
The inequalities that occurred as a result of such segregation spread further than just housing. Considering the political atmosphere at the time, the collection of townships in the south western part of Johannesburg experienced unequal access from inner city resources such as education and amenities. The 1976 student uprising is perhaps one of the most memorable occurrences in Soweto’s and South Africa’s history. In that event, 21 were killed by the white government police as they were marching from their schools to Orlando in protest of the introduction of teaching in Afrikaans instead of in English.
There are a huge section of Johannesburg tours on offer but the best way to get in touch with the real side of Soweto is to go on a bicycle tour where you will get a chance to experience the cultural and historical significance of the municipality.
The nearby Apartheid Museum is a must-see. Here, the well-presented displays will give you a real feel of how it was to live in those years. Photos, movies and preserved artefacts will help you understand more about what happened during this significant historical time. Allow two or three hours absorb it all. While you are in the area you can visit the memorable Nelson Mandela’s old home as well as Desmond Tutu’s home.
There are many companies that can organise bike tours though Soweto for you. Two of the best are Soweto Bicycle Tours and Cycle in Soweto. Depending on the tour you choose, you have the opportunity to see the local shebeen, which are unlicensed establishments that sell alcohol, Hector Pieterson Museum and the home of the former ANC women's League’s Chair.
A Johannesburg city tour is never complete without a visit to Soweto. These are just some of the few included landscapes in an exciting bicycle tour to discover Soweto. Get to experience the colourful culture of the city first hand on a bicycle and see everything from the ground. Getting around Soweto by bike is faster than walking but slower than driving, the perfect mid speed for absorbing the beauty of the history lying behind the large and culturally rich city.