Sunday 4 Jun
Johannesburg, South Africa
Goodbye South Africa
well, i thought id make another entry while i have access to the internet. I am due to catch a bus tomorrow from Johannesburg to Gaborone in Botswana, and from there im not sure how easy it will be to access the internet. Plus i had a very interesting day which i thought needs a whole blog devoted to itself.
Today we started by exploring the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. This is a museum devoted to the period in South Africa's history (which is still an open wound for the country) in which the country was ruled by the National Party and their policy of apartheid. this policy (which came into play in 1948) had its basis in segregation of blacks and whites, including the forcible evacuation of black residences from the city to 'squatter' settlements. The next 5 decades in South Africa were dominated by violence and poverty as the black South African's fought to free themselves from the apartheid rule (this is what Nelson Mandela was fighting for). Hundreds of thousands died over this period. Amazingly the apartheid was finally overturned in 1994 (only very recently). It was amazing to learn the complex and dark history of this time for the country. Well worth a visit if you ever get to JBerg.
To continue learning about this time we then proceeded to the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to a 13yr old boy who was the killed during a peaceful student protest against the introduction of the language of Afrikaan into schools by the apartheid. The students were marching in protest when police opened fire on the children. This incident spelled the beginning of many deaths of young children who tried to stand up to the government. From this museum we proceeded to Soweto (some of you might have heard of it before). This is the township in which the uprise against the apartheid began. This township was began as a resettlement camp for 'blacks' removed from the city. Today, this township contains about 4 million people in a tiny area. Although there are some 'rich' parts, the majority of inhabitants live in 'shanty settlements'. It was an amazing eye opening experience. this area was once called 'the most dangerous place on earth'. although it has improved since it still remains to be very dangerous place. And before some of you get too worried, i had a tour guide to show me around. The conditions people live in is amazing. we went into one family's house, which is a one roomed house (about 2m x 3m) in which 6 people live. There is no electricity, no running water, no pluming of any sort. What's worse is that the unemployment rate is about 80%. The people search for work but there is nothing available and even if they find work the money is never enough. As we walked down the ally, small children were coming up begging for money. as much as we wanted to give them a couple of dollars, it isnt right as it encourages them to beg. It really made me appreciate how lucky we are in Australia, that we cant even comprehend how places like this still exist in 2006. I found the trip to be a very sad experience though i am grateful i got the chance to see another world so far removed from what i have known my whole life.
After that amazing cultural experience we headed back to the hostel. Not before heading past Alexandra, another township, which is currently the most dangerous place in Johannesburg. Ironically its only 3 mins away from the hostel. But dont get too worried, i am safe!
Tomorrow its time to say a sad goodbye to South Africa. It feels weird to be leaving as i feel like i have only just arrived. But its time to explore the rest of Africa. I found South Africa to be a very interesting place, (almost like australia in some aspects - particularly some of the landscape and vegetation - given that it has a similar climate). The people are very nice, and always willing to chat, although the accent can be very strange. It almost sounds like a mix between New Zealand and English, with the words 'Ya' and 'Pleasure' thrown it all the time.
However, its time to continue exploring. Ill try my hardest to keep this journal up to date.
Til next time, in the next country