“Soweto – no more the ‘ghetto’” – 1999 / 2000

A 56 min documentary on Soweto past & present. Soweto – estimated population – some 4 million people. Once apartheid ‘ghetto’ serving the labour requirements of Johannesburg & the goldfields – today, a vibrant urban fusion of indigenous African subcultures.

Washed by the tides of Western cultural influence – Soweto nevertheless maintains its own identity – and with it – an ingrained sense of community – witnessed in the celebration of life’s traditional rituals of birth, marriage and death.

In life as in death – Soweto is a city of contrasts and contradictions; here, the past sits comfortably alongside the future.
While Zionists worship and baptize on the banks of the Klipspruit River as they have done for decades – nearby, men and machines grapple with the transformation of Soweto from yesterday’s ghetto township to tomorrow’s model city.

After decades of deliberate neglect – reconstruction is an enormous task – bringing – for the first time – the basic infrastructure of tarred roads, traffic lights, storm water drainage, kerbing and footpaving, telephones and electricity – whilst upgrading existing inadequate sewerage and running water systems.

Inheriting an enormous backlog in service provision, the challenge facing the new local government – in the face of high unemployment in Soweto – has been to break the cycle in the culture of non-payment caused by a history of non-delivery of services by local authorities in the townships. With 33 informal settlements and some 120 000 backyard dwellings in Soweto – the provision of formal housing is a further challenge.

In the past – in township shops – black entrepreneurs were restricted to selling 24 items. These were commodities such as matches, bread & milk – which were classified by the authorities as daily necessities. Today, with the changing Soweto, traditional family businesses such as ‘coal merchants’ find their business under threat & are grappling with the need to diversify in order to survive. All over Soweto, there is evidence of energetic personal initiatives in the informal, micro and small-business sector.

Alongside an unemployment rate of some 40%. – there are an estimated twenty-three self-made millionaires living in Soweto.