Vilakazi street

Soweto

Just about every tour through Soweto stops at Vilakazi Street. There is reason enough. It is probably the most famous street in the huge Soweto township in Johannesburg.

Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lived here – how many places can claim that two Nobel Prize winners lived in the same street. In fact, Tutu, as he is more fondly known, still lives here with his wife Leah, and when he’s in town he is said to stroll the streets.

Mandela’s house has become a museum. It is called the Mandela House Museum and is open for public tours during the week. But there is more to Vilakazi Street. A block away from here Hector Peterson was killed by police during the students’ uprising of June 16 1976, today celebrated as Youth Day. Now the Hector Peterson Museum and memorial stand on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets.

Dr BW Vilakazi, after whom the street is named, was a poet, novelist and intellectual, who wrote in numerous indigenous languages. He was also the first black man to teach at Wits, the University of the Witwatersrand, even if he had to be employed as a ‘language assistant’ because of bureaucracy that did not allow black lecturers. Later, armed with a PhD in literature, he helped develop the written form of both isiZulu and siSwati, and helped put together the isiZulu dictionary.

Now, because of Vilakazi street’s popularity, it includes a couple of well-known restaurants – Nambitha and Sakhumzi – that serve local cuisine to tourists, with prices to match, but it is also home to the only community television station in the city, Soweto TV, broadcast from a classroom at the local primary school.

Amenities