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Great Zimbabwe: At the centre of Soweto!

16 Aug 2019 at 07:36hrs | Views
As the wave of violence, threats of violence and looting against foreign nationals and their businesses subsided in Johannesburg, it finally arrived in Soweto!

Just after sunset on Wednesday 14 August, angry mobs of local South Africans wielding bricks, iron bars and other dangerous objects started roaming the streets of Central Western Jabavu with impunity.

Indeed, there where destined for the local foreign owned grocery shops for the sole purpose of looting.

Up until well after mid-night, there where several eye witness reports of unlawful breaking and entering within Soweto. One eye witness narrated how a shop at the John Wesley College in Central Western Jabavu, home to many Zimbabweans, was looted in the full glare of the police.

Historically, Soweto is generally known to be the soul of Joburg. Shaped by the apartheid government's determination to enforce racial segregation and to limit the foothold of black people in urban areas, Soweto has grown from a small squalid settlement beyond the boarders of the City to the largest township in South Africa, arguably, on the Continent.

However, a visit to this vibrant township reveals ancient links with Great Zimbabwe.

The story of Soweto begins in Central Johannesburg, in the area now known as Newtown, at the turn of the century. By the late 1950s the loosely connected but geographically close group of townships including Moroka, Pimville, Klipspruit, Orlando East, Dube,  Mofolo North and South, Central Western Jabavu, Molapo and Moletsane had no name, so the manager of the City Council's Non-European Affairs Department, WJP Carr, offered a prize of £10 to anyone who could come up with a acceptable name. In the end the name Soweto, an acronym for South-Western Townships, was chosen, possibly because it did'nt seem to favour one indegenous language over another.

One unique attraction is to be found in Soweto's Oppenheimer Garderns, where traditional healers harvest plant material for medicinal purposes. It is the "Oppenheimer Tower", which marks the centre of Soweto and offers an incredible view of the sprawling township.

The tower, which strikingly resembles our very own Great Zimbabwe ruins, was built in 1957 as a tribute to the mining magnet Earnest Oppenheimer for his generous contribution to the resettlement of people who had been displaced by the forced removals of the apartheid government under its "Slum Clearance Scheme" (murambatsvina) in the 1950s. It is built using bricks from houses demolished during the forced relocations.

As one climbs up the long and winding stairs inside the tower until reaching the top, there it is!  The majestic Zimbabwe bird,  looking over the horizon, across the whole landscape of the sprawling township of Soweto.

Indeed, Great Zimbabwe has been the Soul of Joburg since the time of WENELA.

Walter Nyabadza is an Advocate of the High Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, Pan-African Human Rights Defender, Legal Advisor for the National Reclamation Assembly and Writer.

Source - Walter Nyabadza
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