Today was a full day of guided sightseeing in Johannesburg. Our guide was a white man, near our age, raised in the city. His family came here from Germany generations ago. He supports the DA and was as outspoken with his perspective as yesterday’s ANC supporting taxi driver was with his.
ANC, the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid 22 years ago. The DA, the Democratic Alliance, the current opposition party, was originally a white anti-apatheid party that worked within the system to try to reform it. While the ANC seems to have prevailed in the elections overall, it suffered important losses, which are seen as a wake up call with regard to some frustration with the ANC about both the pace of progress and mismanagement by some leaders. While there are many parties, the other one that we saw lots of signs for was the EFF, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which offered its critique of the ANC from the left.
My take away: it’s complicated and there is still much work to be done.
Our morning showed us highlights of downtown Johannesburg, which grew up from a gold mining settlement in the 19th century. The city has expanded such that mines are now within the city rather than adjacent to it. It now has over four million people. Interesting (appalling) history of colonialism and the harm it does.
Mid-day was spent at the extremely informative and moving Apartheid Museum. Charlie was very involved in the anti-apatheid movement in Boston, which is why adding this day to our trip was so important to us. I knew bits and pieces of the complicated story, but now feel I have so much more to learn.
We had lunch in Soweto (South West Township), the area to which blacks were “relocated” during apartheid. After the delicious buffet, we visited the home (Nelson) Rolihlahla Mandela lived in for many years (incidentally, in a part of Soweto called Orlando West).
Nelson was the name given to him by his teacher at the missionary school. Our guide at his home was a small, older, black woman who when asked, talked about her own involvement in the movement including getting shot, imprisoned, tortured, and having to live in exhile.
We could not visit the home of Desmond Tutu on the same street as it is under renovation, but did visit other sites important to the movement particularly those associated with the 1976 student uprising that propelled the movement forward.
So, now I have written much more than I feel qualified to write. I am deeply moved and honored to have had a chance to experience these places where so many courageous people have struggled for freedom and justice.