Soweto is located in close proximity to Johannesburg; it is very probably the best known township in South Africa and it is certainly one of the places that have played a fundamental role in the struggle against apartheid in the last century.
Today Soweto is a very large suburban area located in South-Western Johannesburg; however, there is no certain data on how many its inhabitants are, some estimates say 2 million others say 4 million, it is difficult to know.
98% of Soweto residents are black, the remaining 2% are whites, Indians and Asians.
The main roads of Soweto are in good condition and are paved, this helps the movement of people and allows many to get to work in acceptable times; however, very few people own a car, most use public transport.
Collective buses are the most comfortable way because they allow to go wherever one wants but it is also the most expensive way, while the train and the bus instead cost less; those who cannot afford public transport or who prefer to save money go on foot, covering several kilometers a day.
Soweto is a heterogeneous reality: here the wealthy neighborhoods coexist with the slums, museums and some commercial areas with the poorest areas, where crime is unfortunately a daily reality.
In affluent neighborhoods, there are single-family homes that have several bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, electricity, running water and sewer; some music or movie stars live here as well as those who have managed to improve their economic conditions but who have not wanted to leave Soweto and stayed here.
Houses found in middle-class neighborhoods are smaller in size, sometimes single-family and multi-family, all have a bedroom or two, living room, kitchen and bathroom with shower and running water, not all however, those who live here can afford electricity so many illegally attach to the electricity network.
Lower-class houses are the houses that are built for free by the government for those who previously lived in the tin shacks or the houses that were built for those who worked in the mines and factories during apartheid, at the time these houses housed only men who were forbidden to have their families with them, while today these houses have been converted into family homes.
These houses are not very large, they usually have two rooms, a bedroom and a kitchen, and only some have running water and electricity; many of those who live here have to strive to be able to access the resources they need.
Finally, there are the areas that are called irregular settlements, these are the poorest areas, what most people identify as townships; here there are no infrastructures, everywhere you can see electric cables that bring electricity to the houses illegally from the electricity network.
In these irregular settlements there is not even running water, in some open spaces there are manual pumps to extract the water from the ground, this water is used for everything: for cooking, for washing and for washing clothes.
In the neighborhood there are only a few chemical toilets or pit latrines, these toilets are public and available to all the people who live here, but they are far too few if compared to the number of inhabitants; these bathrooms are cleaned once a month and, even if people do everything they can, hygiene is sometimes not at the best.
The houses are simple metal or wooden shacks, inside there is a single room that serves as a bedroom, kitchen and living room for the whole family; there are no roads but dirt paths that venture between the shacks.
Living in these conditions is very difficult but often people help one another to solve a series of problems, they manage everything as if they were a big family and for the collective good.
Those living in the shacks are on the waiting list for a state house but many of them have been waiting for several years now.
It is difficult to identify the boundaries between one neighborhood in Soweto and another, just as it is difficult to define how many townships there are in Soweto: some say 87, others 34 and others 29.
This confusion depends on the fact that the boundaries of what is called Greater Soweto are not delineated and therefore lend themselves to being interpreted, so some include or exclude neighborhoods, townships and territories, or merge or divide some areas; all this means that there is not a unique version.
After the dark period of the apartheid years, in recent years there have been signs of economic recovery in Soweto and the presence of tourists has boosted the development of microbusiness; this bodes well for the near future.
In Soweto there are many interesting places for visitors, both South African and international, so it is one of the areas to go absolutely while visiting and staying in Johannesburg.