Soweto Overview

Soweto Township

Soweto – “A City Within A City”

Soweto is an acronym for South West Township

The history of Soweto goes back to the discovery of gold in 1885. George Harrison has made his momentous discovery of gold bearing reefs at Langlaagte outside the present City of Johannesburg. Thousands of people of all races and from four corners of the world began to stream into the newly established mining camps. As the gold mining industry developed and became more sophisticated, the population of Black temporary contract workers from South Africa’s rural areas grew rapidly. Although many Black people were housed in mining compounds, others were finding employment as house keepers, shop workers, street vendors in the emerging industrial sector of the economy of Johannesburg.

Accommodation was a problem and shanty towns proliferated as the City of Johannesburg grew. A report in 1903 stated that the “Coolie Town” area which accommodated approximately 56000 people of all races, had twisting, narrow streets, polluted water and long drop sanitation.

In 1905 Klipspruit (the oldest of cluster of township that created Soweto today) was established when the Johannesburg Town Council purchased the non gold bearing farm Klipspruit number 8 to cater for the accommodation of Black labourers.

In 1932 the first administrator, Edwin Orlando Leake began building two roomed houses for Black people and the township which is a few kilometers away from klipspruit was established and was named Orlando, after him.

The honour of being the founder of Soweto belongs to James Mpanza who lived many years in Orlando East. He spent his life fighting for the housing of the disadvantaged.

In 1953 residents of Sophiatown were removed by force to Soweto in an area known as Meadowlands.

Soweto In The Current Day

Soweto consists of a community of extremes. On the one hand there is abject poverty and on the other hand there is extraordinary wealth in the upper class suburbs such as Diepkloof Extension and Selection Park. Some of the houses in that area sell for over one and two million rands. Today Soweto is the largest Black residential area in South Africa and has a population of more than 3.5 Million people with the land in extent of 120KM squared. There is a visible development since 1994 (Post Apartheid Era).

Soweto is essentially a Labour Reservoir for the City of Johannesburg and major towns on the reef, such as Roodepoort, Sandton, Randburg and Germiston.

A place of friendship, vibrancy and contrasts