The establishment of Soweto is, like Johannesburg,
linked directly to the discovery of Gold in 1885. Thousands of
people from around the world and South Africa flocked to the new
town to seek their fortunes or to offer their labour. Within 4
years Johannesburg was the second largest city. More than half
the population was black, most living in multi racial shanty towns
near the gold mines in the centre of the town. As the gold mining
industry developed, so did the need for labour increase. Migrant
labour was started and most of these workers lived in mine compounds.
However other workers had to find their own accommodation often
in appalling conditions.
residents of what is now known as Soweto were located into the
area called Klipspriut in 1905 following their relocation from “Coolietown” in
the centre of Johannesburg as a result of an outbreak of bubonic
plague. The Johannesburg City Council took the opportunity to
establish racially segregated residential areas. Some residents
were to be relocated to Alexandra township (near the present
day Sandton). This group comprised black, Indian and coloured
families and they received freehold title to their land (this
was subsequently reversed by the Apartheid Government). Only
black families were located into Klipspruit and the housing was
on a rental basis. Klipspruit was subsequently renamed Pimville.
demand for housing for the large numbers of black people who
had moved into Johannesburg grew to such an extent that new housing
was built in an area known as Orlando, named after the first
administrator Edwin Orlando Leaky.
In the 1940’s a controversial character James
Mpanza led the first land invasion and some 20000 squatters occupied
land near Orlando. James Mpanza is known as the “Father of
In 1959 the residents of Sophiatown were forcibly
removed to Soweto and occupied the area known as Meadowlands. Sir
Earnest Oppenheimer, the first chairman of the Anglo American Corporation,
was appalled by the housing shortage and was instrumental in arranging
a loan for the construction of additional housing and this is commemorated
by the Oppenheimer Tower in Jabulani.
Current status of Soweto.
Soweto falls within the municipality of the Johannesburg
Metro Council in the province of Gauteng which appropriately means
place of Gold.
rental houses have now been sold to the tenants who received
a subsidy from the government to cover the cost of the houses.
Private sector housing was developed from the 1980’s funded
by the various banks. Freehold title is available to the properties.
Services are provided by the Johannesburg Metro council
and electricity by Escom.
Origins of the name.
Soweto obtained its name from the first two letters
of South Western Township which was the original description of
is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter
misery and new prosperity,
squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which
still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past
and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa”