To the untrained eye, the camp may appear to be a community of chaos and a hotbed of dissatisfaction. But Sipho Stefans, an ANC council member who lives in a shack with his wife and four children, says there is a sense of progress here. Part of the reason for his optimism is that the residents of Motsoaledi, unlike many squatter camps, have been promised title to the land and someday homes to build on it.
"People here have nowhere to go, but still they have faith in their leadership," says Stefans, who has lived in shacks his entire adult life. "One might say, `Look, 20 years ago there were a lot of jobs.' But they did not have an opportunity for advancement. Now they can do whatever they want. People can cross barriers. They have a sense of ownership."
1 holiday, 2 celebrations
One of the most important days in Soweto is the celebration of Youth Day on June 16.
The holiday commemorates the thousands of students who on June 16, 1976, walked out of their classrooms and flooded the streets of Soweto to protest the apartheid government's plans to educate them in Afrikaans, the Dutch-based language of the white Nationalist Party leadership. The students clashed with police. The photograph of Hector Petersen, a 12-year-old schoolboy shot to death by police, awakened the world to the apartheid government's cruelty. The day was considered a turning point for the struggle, touching off a new era of resistance that ultimately led to the collapse of the apartheid system.
This year the government marked the day with the grand opening of the Hector Petersen Memorial Museum, an impressive brick building with exhibits, and photographs documenting the history of the uprising. It sits on the site where Petersen was killed.
Government ministers made speeches celebrating the victory of the struggle, asking young and old to never forget what happened on June 16. In the afternoon, a government-sponsored concert was held in a local soccer stadium.
On the other end of the township more than 100 people from SECC, anti-privatization groups and unions instead gathered at Pimville Community Hall to celebrate Youth Day.
An old woman wrapped in a blanket stood up from her plastic chair, scanned the audience, and proclaimed that the government was brainwashing the country's youth with a free holiday concert, making them believe the struggle was over.
"The ANC keeps saying that we have achieved what we fought for. It's a lie. Because we are still struggling like we used to struggle before," she said.
Her speech was met with applause and stomping feet by everyone in the auditorium, including Molefe.
"Today the biggest criminals are the ANC government because the ANC government betrayed the people who struggled in 1976," said another speaker. "We have a new form of apartheid in South Africa, where we have a division between rich and poor."
A new divide
For the middle class and wealthy, those on the other side of this new divide, it is easy to forget about Soweto and the families like the Molefes. The architects of apartheid did their jobs too well, hiding the township behind mine dumps and highways.
Steve Lebelo, a development officer at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, never thought he would leave Soweto. He was born and raised there, attending township schools, marching during the 1976 uprising, losing a brother to a police bullet during a riot. He later moved into his mother's house in Diepkloof with his wife and daughter.
Then he watched the township decline. He was carjacked three times while driving through the township. Three times was enough, and, like many of his colleagues, he decided to flee.
"If anyone was given the chance to leave this place, they would. But there isn't any way out for them," Lebelo says.
Lebelo moved into a three-bedroom brick home in the formerly all-white suburb of Naturena, built up on hills overlooking the outskirts of Johannesburg. Each house is different. Satellite dishes dot the rooftops. New cars are parked in the driveways. His neighbors include several teachers, a lawyer, a police officer, business owners, and a professional soccer player.
"No, you can't see Soweto from here," says Lebelo, standing out on his front lawn on a recent afternoon. The township is just five minutes away, but about the only evidence of the township is the coal smoke rising in clouds from Motsoaledi.
The obstructed view is precisely the attraction of suburbs like Naturena. Most residents - many of them former township dwellers - don't want to think about the past. During block parties, his neighbors drink and boast of their newfound success, talking about their new cars, televisions, stereos and promotions at the office.
Here, the black children often grow up speaking English as their first language - not the township Zulu.