Breaking Free from Apartheid
The Journey to Freedom is a historical tour. It’ll take you to the places and introduces you to some of the people who brought South Africa out of the Apartheid era and into a shining illustration of what the promise of a truly democratic society can become.
The Johannesburg tour begins in Soweto. Soweto, an acronym for South West Township, was a birthplace of the turbulent, anti-Apartheid movement. More than 2 million still call this impoverished neighborhood home. Driving through the township and seeing how the locals live will make a grown man cry. It’s absolutely inconceivable. Denied employment and cast aside by the government, residents were forced to make due.
A startling example can be seen in the construction of homes. Most have been built using anything the people could get their hands on. The four walls and roof of these “homes” are made with tin, plywood, planks, concrete blocks and a host of other materials. It’s amazing that they stand upright. It is an unforgettable sight but one that is needed to capture the essence of township life.
You’ll go to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which stands near the site of a protest march that turned violent. Students took to the streets to protest the announcement by the government, requiring all non-white, secondary school-age children to study Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling party.
The students were continuing on to the soccer stadium when the police arrived and then all hell broke loose. Police fired on the children. As word spread of the encounter, uprisings ocurred throughout South Africa, which further enraged the police. When it was all over, 550 people had been killed. One of those was Pieterson, a young student.
During this oppressive era, the white-ruling government forbid Black and colored residents from holding meetings. Non-whites were prohibited from forming political parties, also. As a result, secret meetings took place throughout the township including at Regina Mundi Church, a stop on the tour. The tour also has an optional stop at Mandela House, a small museum.
The full-day tour includes a visit to the Apartheid Museum. Another stark reminder of the cruelty of this era. Upon entering, visitors choose to be a member of either the white or Black race and participate throughout the tour in this fashion. The museum is a moving, multimedia experience. There are snippets of documentary films, sound clips, as well as live accounts, recapturing life in the ugly days of South African Apartheid.
I really love this tour. It provides up-close-and-personal accounts of life as Black or “Coloured” South Africans. You’ll learn how the Black, colored and white working class were all betrayed by the government and the mining conglomerates. These actions were a critical turning point in race relations in South Africa, and ultimately led to the creation of the Apartheid system. It also does an amazing job of portraying the integral role white South Africans played in putting an end to this dark era.
For anyone who was active in Anti-Apartheid rallies or simply loves history, this is an amazing tour.Tags: Anti-Apartheid Struggle, Culture, Johannesburg Journey to Freedom, South Africa