South Africa’s racist apartheid system lasted from 1948 to 1994. This regime required the separation of the races. Many blacks lived in impoverished townships outside the main cities. They were non-citizens in their own land
The 1970s were a period of rebellion against apartheid. Soweto, the nation's largest township, became a virtual rallying cry for international anti-apartheid activists. The film begins with a montage of those who gave their lives in the struggle. Soweto’s streets were the setting for clashes between black demonstrators and government forces.
However, this is not a documentary about the past, necessarily. Viewers are here to learn the way things have turned out since the end of apartheid. Blacks have not been able to move to so-called “white areas” of South Africa. There are no laws to prevent such relocation. Yet, centuries of neglect have left these people economically unable to afford the cost of living outside their township. Soweto remains home.
The problem, as the film delineates, is that contemporary Soweto suffers the same urban ills found in most large cities. Crime is rampant. Gangs have become a central part of life. People seem to have forgotten the battle against racism in the quest for money. There is actual footage of a carjacking taking place. For Soweto residents, these scary robberies are all too common.
Education is one way out of Soweto. The film explores the various reasons why black South Africans fail to receive a decent education. Government neglect plays a part. Unschooled children often become homeless, living day-to-day on the rough streets of Soweto. They then may join gangs for protection. This vicious cycle characterizes life in the post-apartheid township.
Not all hope is lost. We see residents working in the tourism industry. Europeans, in particular, take an interest in visiting Soweto when in South Africa. In addition, second-chance camps for youth criminal offenders help these troubled delinquents find other alternatives to crime. It is this desire for change that lies at the heart of the documentary.
Soweto was once the site of rebellion against the system. Viewers should watch to learn of the ways that this troubled township might again be able to help create a better future for all South Africans.
Soweto: Streetwise South Africa
- Enhanced DVD
- ISBN: 978-1-61753-126-2
- Run Time: 44 Minutes
- Copyright Date: 2004