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PADDY'S SOUTH AFRICAN TOUR
JOHANNESBURG - SOWETO

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Monday, February 22 -Tuesday, February 23, 2010.  We flew to Johannesburg, and proceeded to our hotel, The Grace in Rosebank, a sophisticated boutique hotel that received countless international awards, including Conde Nast Traveler and Diners Club. Our room even had a door bell!

           

     

 

We had a glimpse of the city of Johannesburg, Jo'burg to those in the know. It is a city of contrasts, with lots of construction and unfinished projects

             

                           

                          

                          

                          

There is a vey obvious police presence, as evidenced by the gigantic police headquarters.  The very well known St. John's Preparatory School and College is a very distinguished building which seems a bit out of place. It's fully integrated but most of its students come from wealthy families of English or Dutch background.

 

We soon arrived to Soweto, The SOuth WEstern TOwnship, site of the well known international soccer matches. We saw the famous soccer stadium.

                   

          

 

Soweto is also known as the site of the infamous Soweto uprising, or Soweto riots. On June 16, 1976, a clash developed between the students, who were forced to learn Afrikaans and stop using Bantu or English, and the South African authorities. Although it started peacefully, it soon developed into an armed conflict, and the police fired the first shot, killing Hector Pietersen, who was only 12 at the time. There was chaos after that, and the images spread all over the world, causing outrage and international condemnation of the Apartheid government

 

           

We visited Hector Pietersen's Memorial, a very sobering experience, and were lucky enough to meet his sister, Antoinette Sithole, who was photographed next to her dying brother in the picture that went around the world, 2nd. from left, above. She talked to us and recounted the events of that fateful day. She was around 17 at the time. We took our picture with her, thanks to an African entrepreneur who snapped the photo and developed many copies right then and there, selling them to each one of us.

  

 

Our next stop was the Constitutional Hall. South Africa has a fairly new Constitution, dating from 1994, when people realized that most of the laws had been drafted by white males. They needed to be changed to include everybody.

The exterior of the court shows the remnants of the old walls that were part of the prison where Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi were kept in captivity. Metal sculptures adorn the plaza, and there is a sign depicting an umbrella tree, under which justice was dispensed in the past.

               

   

 

We were able to sit on a judgment that dealt with the constitutionality of the President, Jacob Zuma, granting pardons to a number of racists, religious, and political killers without consulting with the victims. The judges found that the president would be acting outside the constraints upon the office, a victory for the rights of the aggrieved. Photographs were not allowed during the proceedings. The court chamber has seats for all the judges. 11 judges sit on the court, guarding the constitution and protecting everyone's human rights. The court is fully integrated, all races represented.

                       

The very narrow windows around the chamber only allow a view of the feet of passersby, thus limiting knowing the persons' ancestry. It was felt  that justice would be served better this way. The flag represents all the colors of the races that form part of South Africa.

                    

   

Outside the chamber there are allegorical sculptures that show the advances towards integration and equality, from imprisonment in a cell to being able to freely interact in the modern world.

                   

 

 As we left, we saw some more views of Soweto and passed by the house of Nelson Mandela  

                   

 

We drove a bit more until we got to a school hall, where students attired in tribal costumes put on a show for us.

           

 

At the end of the show Paddy posed with a Watusi dancer. As a child, she was always being compared to the Watusi Tribe members because they are very tall, and so was she.  Pat also got photographed with a group of dancers.

     

  We returned to the hotel to prepare for the flight to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.

 

 

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