May 25th 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African Union. In honour of the day I took advantage of the warm weather and visited a place that is arguably the centre of modern South African history and heritage, Soweto. It is in the South of Johannesburg, and home to about 2 million South Africans. Leaving home we didn’t really have a clear idea of how the we wanted the day to unfold, my friend just wanted to see the famous Vilakazi street. After my Garmin took us to a wrong Vilakazi street I advised that she type in Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum; after a few minutes of muttering about how my Garmin was dumb and her TomTom smarter which I admit is totally true), my Garmin finally found it and we were there in minutes. I had been to the museum before during my orientation week in University, yet the photograph of the mortally wounded Hector Pieterson by Sam Nzima, mounted outside the museum entrance, did not fail to capture me once again.
The museum is in Orlando West, on Vilakazi street, the same street 12 years old Hector Pieterson was shot and killed during the 1976 students uprising. Inside the museum, the events of June 16th and the circumstances leading to the day are immortalised in granite, videos of interviews and news bulletins, audio recording and photographs, preserving the day and its significance; and a short walk through the museum captures the tremulous and bloody era. You will not find that gloomy image outside however; instead the street is vibrant, full of life and colour from the crafts market on the street, a proper tribute to the lives given for the end of apartheid.
The Orlando Towers are visible from the museum, adrenalin junkies can head there for bungee jumping, not my cup of tea, however my other friend Maureen recently went and allowed me to post her picture jumping off the towers.
After about an hour shopping we decided to cruise down the rest of Vilakazi street. We didn’t get far, we stopped at Sakhumzi restaurant for what was supposed to be one drink. It turned to two, then a meal, then more drinks, until we decided to enjoy the Nedbank Cup final and the rest of the evening there. The restaurant is part of 3 in close proximity to each other and it’s also close to the Rea Vaya bus terminal, the F4 bus from the city passes through there. The street has cameras installed and police presence is high, the parking attendants are magnificent, and there’s a car wash right opposite the restaurants cluster. Good music, big screens for sports fans, good food, excellent service from staff and the manager; one of the best restaurant experiences I ever had. Definitely beyond what I had expected. We came across a lost German backpacker being assisted by the locals; Soweto turned out to be a very warm and welcoming place for a tourist from both local and anywhere else in the world. I marked the restaurant in my Garmin, planning to take my other friends there as well. A day well spent! Worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Johannesburg with a day or half to spend.