Monday, July 09, 2007

Soweto and the Defiance Campaign

The name Soweto is an acronym for the south-western townships of Johannesburg. The name Soweto was adopted in 1963 after a special committee held a naming competition for the township where hundreds of entries were submitted. Five suggestions were recommended, Soweto, Sawesko, Swestown, Phaphama Villages and Partheid Townships. The name Soweto was already in use before the special committee officially announced that is had been selected (Mandy 1982).

Soweto is a symbol of South Africa’s policy of apartheid, which refused to accept the mixing of races. Urban black people were relegated to a city with two cinemas, two banks and no supermarket. This was to the advantage of white businessmen as blacks were forced shop in Johannesburg CBD.

There were many oppressive laws and measures aimed at repressing black people. The repressive laws laid the foundation for the mass-based defiance campaign intent on liberation. The defiance campaign received support from all sectors of society. This changed perceptions of some members of the ANC with regards to Africanism. Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu began to have second thoughts about Africanism and embraced multiculturalism. This was reaffirmed by the Freedom Charter, which was adopted in 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto, to represent the demands of a disenfranchised black community. It was this issue, multiculturalism that led to the breakaway by Zeph Mothopeng and Robert Sobukwe and the forming of the Pan African Congress (PAC) in 1959 (Mashabela 1984).

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