Getting to Know South Africa’s Biggest Township

Soweto, once the country’s largest black township, was a symbol of the united resistance to the racist apartheid regime and home to the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Today, Soweto embodies the social and class divisions within South Africa’s black majority. It is a place of flashy cars and grand mansions, but also of shanty towns and high unemployment. Soweto is nevertheless a showcase for the progress that some black South Africans have made. In the 1980s, Sowetans refused to pay for services like electricity as part of a multipronged campaign against apartheid spearheaded by, among others, Cyril Ramaphosa, the current South African president. After the end of apartheid, this culture of nonpayment continued. Today, more than 80 percent of Sowetans do not pay for electricity.


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