This morning’s race was in Orlando, Soweto. Many whites refuse on principle to run in the townships. The usual reasons advanced are the lack of cleanliness combined with safety concerns. Whilst accepting the former as generally a given considering that these areas are populated by the lower classes, in the case of the latter it is no more dangerous to run races in rich or poor suburbs. It might be unchartered territory to run through Soweto but many whites will be surprised both confirming their preconceptions whilst dispelling others.
This is a journey through one suburb of Soweto. Please join me on my jog.
Main picture: The Orlando Community Hall
The start of the race was at the Orlando Community Hall. Like all such halls in black townships, it is inextricably linked with the liberation struggle. This hall has been used for many activities including boxing. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Nelson Mandela trained here. A lesser known fact is that when a group of political activists resolved to break away from the ANC and form a new political party, the meeting was held in this hall. At the meeting held on the 6th April 1959, the PAC was formed with Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, an ardent Africanist, who was key to the breakaway, being elected as its founding president.
Diagonally opposite the Community Hall is the Orlando Stadium, the home stadium of Orlando Pirates which is in the Premier Soccer League. It was completely rebuilt and reopened on 22 November 2008 with the intention to be utilized, as a training field, for teams participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The revamped stadium now has a capacity of 40,000 people.
The aspect that is not captured by any of these photographs, is the friendliness of the people of Soweto especially the children. With the paucity of space in the match-box houses, they play in the streets. This is not as unsafe as it sounds due to the dearth of vehicles on the road.
Because I was taking photographs as I jogged, many of the fellow black runners starting conversing with me as if I were a long lost friend. This is indicative not only of runners’ camaraderie but also the local’s reciprocity when interest was shown in their suburb..