Joburg was quite an experience. It was euphoric to be momentarily part of a place that had been through so much yet managed to still show signs of promise. Thanks to RBOARF, I met quite a few young Africans that were thankfully not Nigerian. It was good to see the African diaspora, proud and ambituous. It was good to see people talking and thinking of a time when "Africa" as a whole will have so much and so many to boast about..
...And yet there were still the signs of bitterness and anger of a people recovering but not forgetting about a past filled with horror, death and pain. Restricting oneself to the city centres of Sandton and the like..you almost feel like the history is being drowned by the capitalist grasp of huge malls, dainty restaurants and fancy people. There have been progressive steps taken to address the imbalance in wealth distribution between the black and white South Africans so there are new cliques of young Africans awash with cash et al from the Corporate bees that have taken the South African city by storm. Nevertheless..the true wealth still lie with the white South Africans and that's obvious when you drive down roads in certain neighbourhoods or peer into many an expensive restaurant. There are still a lot of black South Africans immersed and held hostage by poverty in this city that's pregnant with the promise of things to come. How will these be given a chance?
Venturing into Soweto.I feel my blood rushing with the acknowledgement of the history in the air and the ground beneath me. It helped that we had Tebogo, who spent a lot of her childhood in this township. She's proud of where she's come from and she's eager to share and give us a little bit of what it is that makes Soweto special. We go to Freedom square to look at the tenets of the new South Africa and although we know that we still have a long way to go, we also acknowledge that a journey of a million miles starts with one foot step. We drove past some hostels where foreigners dare not venture near for fear of being clubbed to death but we also whiz past the hugest church I had ever seen which apparently doubles as a life style complex with shopping facilities, shelter and more.
We went to the Hector Pieterson museum, Hector being the first kid to be killed in the 1976 uprisings. One can't help but wonder how a human being can shoot down a child in cold blood and then go on to kill many others just because they stood for what they believed in. All because they asked was not to be taught in the slave masters language...Moving on painfully, because I'm not versed in South African history, I think about all the other wars in Africa that have been fought for unjustifiable causes..I think of how much Africa is still being manipulated by the powers that be.and I marvel at how we sit content in our silos..and do nothing..Blood, blood and more blood has been shed but still the war rages on..what to do?
Moving on to Vilakazi street, where Nelson Mandela once resided and Desmond Tutu still lives..we see the emergence of new business opportunities in the form of B&B's and tourist merchandise.We also get to see the grounds of Winnie Mandela's mansion heavily protected by guards...and I'm happy I came to Soweto..where women still gather in their nightgowns and hair nets early in the morning to discuss the past days events, where people still exude warmth and ambition even though they've been through so much..There's just something about the African spirit..We are just difficult to break..We keep on going..regardless..
Having lunch on Vilakazi street, I had to marvel at the number of sleek, new BMW's that drove past me. The nouveau rich who have left the township constantly flow in to show the people that they have "arrived"..I must have counted more than 200 BMW's and we only sat for a couple of hours. BMW have apparently opened up a plant in SA citing the demand for their cars as a good business reason. My SA friends tell me that there is no type of car that one can't find on the South African road..If it's been made, you will find it there..
After a beautiful meal served by the chirpiest waitress I have ever met (Elvis, one of the guys ordered a beer and she announced happily that he would have to be innovative in opening the bottle as the bottle opener has been mislaid earlier in the day! And she said this with a straight, happy face.), we headed back to the Joburg that most people know and acknowledge with the fancy restaurants, big malls and western taste..
All I can say is..RBOARF..Thank you for giving me Soweto.